Shaun Derry on leading Notts County to League One safety
SHAUN Derry never took many prisoners as a player. And as the dust settled on Notts County’s amazing escape from relegation, he wasn’t about to start pulling any punches as a manager.
Bottom and adrift when he took charge in November, the 36-year-old has kicked the Magpies into shape, with six wins from their final eight games meaning a final-day draw at Oldham was enough to secure another season in League One.
A boyhood County fan who came through the ranks at Meadow Lane, Derry shed tears of joy on the pitch, hailing his players for saving “not just a club but a community”.
But in the cold, hung-over light of the morning after, Derry’s elation had been replaced by a simmering anger at the state of his beloved club.
“The supporters of this club have been let down,” said Derry, who abandoned a playing contract at Millwall to become County’s ninth manager in five chaotic years.
“And that’s not me pointing the finger at past managers by any stretch of the imagination. Everybody has to take responsibility for what has happened to Notts County, the board included.
“It’s been an accumulation of mismanagement throughout and that boils down to the players as well.
“I’ve been in and around plenty of difficult situations – administrations, relegations, everything that goes with it. And I’ve been involved with too many managers to even list.
“But no matter what happens, you’ve just got to stick in there and keep your own qualities, your own focus. As a player, you set your own standards.
“Players are very quick to push the excuse button aren’t they? And as much as we should quite rightly hail staying up as a fantastic achievement, these players have to take a very close look at themselves in the mirror this summer.
“They have to say ‘Hang on, have I done everything – absolutely everything – to warrant being called a success?’ And if they’ve got high standards, they’d have to say ‘Probably not’.”
Derry knows a thing or two about poor standards. During his time at QPR, Hoops’ chairman Tony Fernandes was taken for a ride by agents and advisors, leading to the arrival of disinterested mercenaries on astronomical wages.
The subsequent rifts and divisions – with the likes of Jose Bosingwa and Chris Samba paid ten times more than Derry or Clint Hill for barely lifting a leg – resulted in what Harry Redknapp called “the worst dressing room I’ve ever seen” and relegation from the Premier League.
“That QPR dressing room was like the wild west,” said Derry. “Punchups, arguments, people not speaking to each other – everything was wrong.
“And on a smaller scale, this place was the same. It’s just that the Indians weren’t as big as the ones at QPR.
“QPR was on a grander scale in terms of finances, and in terms of the characters and reputations. But even then I always had my own way, my own ideas on how I would combat that situation. That’s why Notts County didn’t frighten me.”
And why he immediately took a scythe to the squad, shipping out some 11 players on loan by the end of January, including the likes of Enoch Showunmi, David Bell and Danny Haynes.
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