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AF­TER their 2-1 win away to Brighton on Thurs­day, I don’t see Derby slip­ping up to­day.

Hav­ing gone a goal down, they roared back to show just why they fin­ished third in the Cham­pi­onship. Re­solve, spirit, huge threat go­ing for­ward – that’s why they are still my favourites to go up.

For Brighton to stand any chance, I al­ways thought they’d need to get some­thing in the first leg. That’s why the sec­ond goal was such a blow.

That said, Brighton do have a great away record. And when I was at Ply­mouth, I re­mem­ber we lost 1-0 to Colch­ester in the first leg only to come back and win 3-1 at our place. So, as Steve McClaren said, it’s not over yet.

But with Chris Martin, right, in in­stru­men­tal form and Johnny Rus­sell and Jamie Ward such a threat on the break, I can’t see any­thing but a Derby vic­tory.

THIS is a time of year that all man­agers dread. Be­cause whether you’ve been fight­ing for pro­mo­tion or to stay up, you’ve got to tell play­ers they’re no longer wanted.

Some will be out of con­tract. Oth­ers you will have to trans­fer list. And all of them de­serve to know why you’re mov­ing them on.

Maybe you don’t think they’re good enough. Maybe you want to change the sys­tem – go to a more or less phys­i­cal ap­proach. Also, there may be some­body who you don’t feel helps the team spirit around the club.You would never say that of course, but any player re­leased un­der those cir­cum­stances will prob­a­bly have got the mes­sage long be­fore then.

In fact, 99 per­cent of pros see it com­ing. And 99 per cent of them ac­cept what you’ve got to say.

Oc­ca­sion­ally you get some­one who will re­act. I’m sure I’m not the only man­ager to get a mouth­ful from a player he’s re­leased.

It’s his op­por­tu­nity to get some­thing off his chest – that maybe the man­ager hasn’t given him a chance or not played him in his best posi- tion.You lis­ten, of course, but ul­ti­mately your mind is made up. At the end of the day, you can’t take it per­son­ally. As a man­ager, I think it’s im­por­tant to re­alise how hard it is be­ing told you aren’t wanted.


But even though it’s hard to tell the pros, I don’t think any­thing is worse for a man­ager than telling a 17-year-old boy that he’s not go­ing to be taken on as a pro.

To sit him down in your of­fice and say that in your opin­ion, he’s not go­ing to make it as a pro­fes­sional. I’ve seen plenty of lads break down in tears, and you feel for all of them.

All you can do is re­it­er­ate that it isn’t over for them.You can go out of the game and come back. Af­ter all, I was 19 be­fore I turned pro.

A few years in Non-League isn’t the end of the world and some people do de­velop later. I al­ways say ‘Go out there and prove me wrong’.

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