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Stand Up Straight (The Brian Clough Challenge)


BobBev

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Season 1 (2001/2002)

In the flesh Brig Calhoun was not a big man. He lacked the physical stature of a Sam Allerdyce or a Steve Bruce. But there was no doubting that he had a certain presence. People noticed when he walked into a room. A straight-talking Teesider, people paid attention when he spoke. After an outstanding playing career at hometown club Middlesbrough, sadly cut short through a knee injury, Calhoun had a brief stab at punditry but his plain speaking was not what the BBC were after. They wanted frontmen who would spout platitudes and not ruffle any feathers, not someone who told it like it was. His fledgling media career cut short, he decided to try his hand at coaching instead and spent several months helping out at Sunderland. Then out of the blue came a job offer that he couldn’t resist – an invitation to take the vacant manager’s job at Hartlepool United.

On July 14th 2001, a few months after his 30th birthday, Brig Calhoun took his first steps in football management. The team played at Victoria Park, a compact stadium with a capacity of some 7,500. The club had a modest amount of cash in the bank but there were no transfer funds available and a compact squad of 26 players, two of who were already on the injury list. The Board’s ambitions did not extend beyond “a respectable league position†but Calhoun was hoping for a little more than that.

The new manager spent his first few days establishing his backroom staff and making an initial assessment of the players at his disposal. It was clear that the squad needed some improvement so Calhoun immediately sent his scouts out to scour the free transfer market. When Crewe made a bid for centre back Chris Westwood, Brig decided to try to bring some funds into the club and managed to negotiate a £200K fee – too good to turn down in the circumstances and the 24-year-old was sold on. By the start of the regular season three new faces had arrived on freebies, including veteran defender Neil Pointon who Brig felt could give the club a decent season of service.

Calhoun made an immediate impression on his players. His track record as a player certainly helped and it did no harm at all that, bad knees and all, it looked like he could more than hold his own out on the training pitch. He took no prisoners with his no-nonsense style and quickly made it clear what he expected his team to do – get hold of the ball and keep hold of the ball. Like it or lump it, everyone knew exactly where they stood with the new gaffer. He rapidly disabused any notion there might be about “hit and hope†football. He wanted his team to maintain possession – as he said “when they’ve got the ball then we can’t score, and if we can’t score then we can’t win.†One of his early half time team talks consisted of a single sentence – holding a ball in his hand he said, “This gentlemen is a football – any chance that we can go out and get it?â€

Calhoun’s focus during pre-season was to start get his players used to the tactics and shape that he wanted to deploy. In what would become his trademark formation he set his team up with a back four where the wide players operated as wingbacks. He wanted a fluid five-man midfield with one man dropping back to guard the defence and another pushing up to play “in the hole†behind a lone striker. Whilst not a stunningly original approach it was nonetheless fairly sophisticated for a Third Division side and it brought immediate benefits. His team won five out of five in August – including a League Cup win at Second Division Swindon – and Brig took the first managerial award of the season. In addition, one of his free signings, a young Norwegian defender called Kristian Ravneng, was honoured on the playing side after a string of rampaging wingback performances.

Hartlepool’s fine form continued into September as they kept up their 100% record in the league. The highlight came early in the month with a 5-1 demolition of leaders Cambridge United to take over at the top of the table. A stoppage time winner from striker Gordon Watson to give them a win at Oxford showed the spirit in the team. The only blot on the Hartlepool copybook came with a 4-1 thrashing at home to Crystal Palace in the League Cup when their normally dependable keeper Tony Williams had a severe attack of the jitters before being replaced by teenager Jim Provett at the break. Calhoun won his second Manager of the Month award and Watson, with 10 goals in 10 starts, won the playing plaudits.

On the playing front Brig was concerned with what he perceived as a lack of adequate cover in midfield and to give more depth in that area another young Norwegian arrived in the shape of free-signing Tom Arild Fredriksen. There was movement in the other direction too with 20-year-old left back Mark Robinson moving to Southampton for a £400K fee. Calhoun had already had several run-ins with the player regarding his status in the team. The lad expected to be a regular starter but his manager felt otherwise and when Saints showed an interest Brig was happy to negotiate a good price. This left the team with just a single left back – the ageing Pointon – but Calhoun was determined to stamp his authority on the team. As far as he was concerned his word was law. As he said in a later interview – “When a player and I disagree we chat about it for 20 minutes and then agree that I’m rightâ€.

Calhoun’s first defeat in the league came at the start of October when his team suffered a surprising 4-2 reverse at Southend. That apart, the only other blemish was a scoreless draw at Macclesfield although it took another stoppage-time strike from Watson to take all three points at home to Carlisle. Calhoun made it a hat trick of managerial awards and it was the turn of centre back Michael Barron to pick up a playing award. Moving into November Hartlepool headed the table, 6 points clear of Cambridge United and a further point ahead of Rushden. One new face appeared during the month as Calhoun picked up another free agent to provide some cover on the left of defence through 22-year-old Dane Mikkel Junge Jensen.

An otherwise flawless November was spoilt by a 3-1 reverse at Wrexham and Calhoun’s team how had a 4-point lead over Rushden. A mini-slump from Cambridge United left them a further 5 points adrift with Hull and Boston United both pressing for the final automatic promotion place. The month also saw FA Cup action with a 2-1 defeat of Shrewsbury sending Hartlepool into round two. An injury to striker Watson meant that Eifion Williams saw some action and he proved to be an able deputy. Kristian Ravneng continued to impress and was rewarded with his second Player of the Month award. Compatriot Fredriksen had made a big impact since his arrival and was keeping Darrell Clarke on the bench. Hull boss Peter Taylor was recognised for the fine form of his team with the monthly managerial award to break to Colhoun monopoly.

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Season 1 (2001/2002)

In the flesh Brig Calhoun was not a big man. He lacked the physical stature of a Sam Allerdyce or a Steve Bruce. But there was no doubting that he had a certain presence. People noticed when he walked into a room. A straight-talking Teesider, people paid attention when he spoke. After an outstanding playing career at hometown club Middlesbrough, sadly cut short through a knee injury, Calhoun had a brief stab at punditry but his plain speaking was not what the BBC were after. They wanted frontmen who would spout platitudes and not ruffle any feathers, not someone who told it like it was. His fledgling media career cut short, he decided to try his hand at coaching instead and spent several months helping out at Sunderland. Then out of the blue came a job offer that he couldn’t resist – an invitation to take the vacant manager’s job at Hartlepool United.

On July 14th 2001, a few months after his 30th birthday, Brig Calhoun took his first steps in football management. The team played at Victoria Park, a compact stadium with a capacity of some 7,500. The club had a modest amount of cash in the bank but there were no transfer funds available and a compact squad of 26 players, two of who were already on the injury list. The Board’s ambitions did not extend beyond “a respectable league position†but Calhoun was hoping for a little more than that.

The new manager spent his first few days establishing his backroom staff and making an initial assessment of the players at his disposal. It was clear that the squad needed some improvement so Calhoun immediately sent his scouts out to scour the free transfer market. When Crewe made a bid for centre back Chris Westwood, Brig decided to try to bring some funds into the club and managed to negotiate a £200K fee – too good to turn down in the circumstances and the 24-year-old was sold on. By the start of the regular season three new faces had arrived on freebies, including veteran defender Neil Pointon who Brig felt could give the club a decent season of service.

Calhoun made an immediate impression on his players. His track record as a player certainly helped and it did no harm at all that, bad knees and all, it looked like he could more than hold his own out on the training pitch. He took no prisoners with his no-nonsense style and quickly made it clear what he expected his team to do – get hold of the ball and keep hold of the ball. Like it or lump it, everyone knew exactly where they stood with the new gaffer. He rapidly disabused any notion there might be about “hit and hope†football. He wanted his team to maintain possession – as he said “when they’ve got the ball then we can’t score, and if we can’t score then we can’t win.†One of his early half time team talks consisted of a single sentence – holding a ball in his hand he said, “This gentlemen is a football – any chance that we can go out and get it?â€

Calhoun’s focus during pre-season was to start get his players used to the tactics and shape that he wanted to deploy. In what would become his trademark formation he set his team up with a back four where the wide players operated as wingbacks. He wanted a fluid five-man midfield with one man dropping back to guard the defence and another pushing up to play “in the hole†behind a lone striker. Whilst not a stunningly original approach it was nonetheless fairly sophisticated for a Third Division side and it brought immediate benefits. His team won five out of five in August – including a League Cup win at Second Division Swindon – and Brig took the first managerial award of the season. In addition, one of his free signings, a young Norwegian defender called Kristian Ravneng, was honoured on the playing side after a string of rampaging wingback performances.

Hartlepool’s fine form continued into September as they kept up their 100% record in the league. The highlight came early in the month with a 5-1 demolition of leaders Cambridge United to take over at the top of the table. A stoppage time winner from striker Gordon Watson to give them a win at Oxford showed the spirit in the team. The only blot on the Hartlepool copybook came with a 4-1 thrashing at home to Crystal Palace in the League Cup when their normally dependable keeper Tony Williams had a severe attack of the jitters before being replaced by teenager Jim Provett at the break. Calhoun won his second Manager of the Month award and Watson, with 10 goals in 10 starts, won the playing plaudits.

On the playing front Brig was concerned with what he perceived as a lack of adequate cover in midfield and to give more depth in that area another young Norwegian arrived in the shape of free-signing Tom Arild Fredriksen. There was movement in the other direction too with 20-year-old left back Mark Robinson moving to Southampton for a £400K fee. Calhoun had already had several run-ins with the player regarding his status in the team. The lad expected to be a regular starter but his manager felt otherwise and when Saints showed an interest Brig was happy to negotiate a good price. This left the team with just a single left back – the ageing Pointon – but Calhoun was determined to stamp his authority on the team. As far as he was concerned his word was law. As he said in a later interview – “When a player and I disagree we chat about it for 20 minutes and then agree that I’m rightâ€.

Calhoun’s first defeat in the league came at the start of October when his team suffered a surprising 4-2 reverse at Southend. That apart, the only other blemish was a scoreless draw at Macclesfield although it took another stoppage-time strike from Watson to take all three points at home to Carlisle. Calhoun made it a hat trick of managerial awards and it was the turn of centre back Michael Barron to pick up a playing award. Moving into November Hartlepool headed the table, 6 points clear of Cambridge United and a further point ahead of Rushden. One new face appeared during the month as Calhoun picked up another free agent to provide some cover on the left of defence through 22-year-old Dane Mikkel Junge Jensen.

An otherwise flawless November was spoilt by a 3-1 reverse at Wrexham and Calhoun’s team how had a 4-point lead over Rushden. A mini-slump from Cambridge United left them a further 5 points adrift with Hull and Boston United both pressing for the final automatic promotion place. The month also saw FA Cup action with a 2-1 defeat of Shrewsbury sending Hartlepool into round two. An injury to striker Watson meant that Eifion Williams saw some action and he proved to be an able deputy. Kristian Ravneng continued to impress and was rewarded with his second Player of the Month award. Compatriot Fredriksen had made a big impact since his arrival and was keeping Darrell Clarke on the bench. Hull boss Peter Taylor was recognised for the fine form of his team with the monthly managerial award to break to Colhoun monopoly.

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Thanks guys icon_smile.gif

Season 1 (2001/2002) Continued

December and January can be a make-or-break period for any team chasing promotion with an already demanding fixture list becoming increasingly congested, particularly around the turn of the year. The first part of the test was passed with flying colours – four wins and a draw in the league keeping Hartlepool in pole position. Conference side Chester were despatched in the FA Cup and a second-string eleven exited the Vans trophy, a competition that Calhoun saw as an unnecessary distraction, at the hands of Port Vale. Wrexham boss Denis Smith won the managerial award in recognition of his team’s climb to the fringes of the playoff places. 19-year-old Fredriksen was lauded as Player of the Month and was fulsome in his praise for his manager.

In January, Calhoun would face three of his nearest promotion rivals inside ten days with an FA Cup tie sandwiched in between. The New Years Day clash at Rushden ended all square, which suited Brig just fine as his team maintained their 7-point advantage. Then a full house saw the home side suffer a narrow 1-0 defeat to Oldham in the FA Cup and four days later another big crowd witnessed a crucial 2-1 win over 4th place Hull. Three days after that Boston United were sent home on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline and Calhoun’s team sat 10 points clear at the top of the Third Division. But as the saying goes there’s no rest for the wicked and after a comfortable midweek defeat of struggling Bury, the ’Pool faced another big game with a trip to Cambridge United. An enthralling contest ended 3-1 in favour of Calhoun, much to the delight of the travelling fans and the Board of Directors. So a highly successful turn of the year saw Calhoun’s team continue to steamroller their way towards promotion. They sat ten points clear of Rushden and such was their dominance that it would not be too much longer before they had a guaranteed playoff place and his reward was another managerial award for his office.

Despite his team’s success, Brig was quite prepared to make changes in the squad, particularly amongst the fringe players. When Chester came in with a bid for midfielder Paul Arnison, Calhoun was quite happy to negotiate a £150K fee, twice the player’s worth in his opinion. To plug that gap he picked up 30-year-old Neil Howarth from Cheltenham for £50K. During February Brig had another run-in with one of his younger players. Teenage striker Adam Boyd was agitating for a place in the first team and when he failed to turn up for training he was immediately put on the transfer list. With Stockport agreeing to a £160K deal the young man went on his way. The same club then pitched for midfielder Darrell Clarke, a player who was doing well but whose ambitions did not match those of his manager. Some tough negotiations ended with a £400K fee – vastly inflated in Brig’s opinion – and the Calhoun war chest was growing. Next out of the door was midfielder Paul Stephenson in a £200K move to Derby. He had been in excellent form but having just turned 34 Brig felt that his best was well behind him and cashed in while the going was good. The downside of all of this was that the squad was now short of two midfielders but Calhoun was optimistic that he would soon identify adequate replacements.

Apart from an unexpected 1-0 defeat at Shrewsbury, the changes to the squad had not appeared to upset the balance of the team and at the end of February Hartlepool held a 12-point lead over Rushden and were guaranteed a playoff place at worst. However Calhoun was finding it more difficult to secure some new midfielders than he had hoped but one new player did appear after Barry Town agreed a £50K fee for 24-year-old Tom Ramasut. Despite the ‘Pool’s success, February became the first month where neither manager nor players appeared in the monthly honours. Ravneng and compatriot Fredriksen continued to impress as did strikers Watson and Williams who had close to 40 goals between them. In midfield Ritchie Humphries, Mark Tinkler and Tommy Widdrington were outstanding and centre back Michael Barron, although seemingly a little injury prone, was a key performer.

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Season 1 (2001/2002) Continued

During March Calhoun saw two of his players dismissed in different games, the first such incidents of the season. The manner in which each episode was dealt with spoke volumes about the manager. Firstly star midfielder Humphries was sent off in the 2-1 win against Macclesfield for punching an opponent. Calhoun made an example of the player and levied a fine of two weeks wages, explaining that no matter how key an individual was to the team that he would not accept violent behaviour. Then in a 2-2 draw with Wrexham recent signing Ramasut received his marching orders for an innocuous push on an opponent. Calhoun saw this as simply over-zealous refereeing and publicly said so, defending his player and appealing against the resulting ban. Fiercely loyal to his players when he believed them to be in the right he was still a strict disciplinarian and would show no mercy if someone stepped out of line.

Later that month his team were involved in a 7-goal thriller at Leyton Orient – having taken a three-goal lead they were pegged back before scoring a late winner. With Rushden confirming their playoff place, Hartlepool were now 20 points clear of 4th place Cambridge United with 9 games remaining. A 2-0 loss at York, just their 4th defeat of the season, and three drawn games had allowed the pack to close a little but promotion was still virtually certain. However Rushden were now within 6 points and the title race was re-ignited. Brig made one final purchase before the end of the transfer window, bringing in the versatile Gavin McGowan from Colchester for £100K. The 26-year-old could play in midfield or defence and on the right or the left.

In early April the Third Division Select was announced and Hartlepool had three representatives – Ravneng, Tinkler and Watson. The point gained in an extraordinary 4-4 draw at home to Exeter at the start of the month gave the ‘Pool a guarantee of promotion but allowed Rushden to close to within 4 points. A superb 4-0 win at promotion chasing Hull steadied the ship after 4 games without a win. A win in their next game tied up promotion for Rushden leaving Cambridge United the most likely to grab the final spot. Despite losing both Tinkler and Widdrington to injury during the run-in, 4 wins on the spin gave Hartlepool the title. The championship was secured in the penultimate game of the season with a 3-1 defeat of Kidderminster in front of their own fans. Both the ‘Pool and Rushden smashed the 100-point and 100-goal barrier and Cambridge United, the third promoted team, finished with 96 points. Boston United came through the playoffs to claim their place in the Second Division. Calhoun gained the Third Division Manager of the Year award, Gordon Watson finished as the ‘Pool’s top scorer with 36 goals and was also chosen as the Player of the Year by the club’s supporters.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Third Division - Sunday 5th May 2002

*********************************************************************************************

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C HARTLEPOOL 46 21 2 0 72 21 14 5 4 47 24 112

2nd P Rushden 46 19 2 2 51 18 15 4 4 50 33 108

3rd P Cambridge Utd 46 18 2 3 43 16 12 4 7 30 25 96

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4th Hull 46 13 4 6 40 26 14 3 6 38 26 88

5th P Boston Utd 46 16 3 4 34 15 11 3 9 26 20 87

6th Southend 46 14 2 7 35 24 8 3 12 38 39 71

7th Oxford 46 13 5 5 38 30 7 4 12 21 32 69

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8th Exeter 46 12 3 8 46 34 7 5 11 39 41 65

9th Wrexham 46 12 8 3 37 21 5 5 13 25 32 64

10th Swansea 46 8 7 8 32 29 8 9 6 33 31 64

11th Carlisle 46 12 5 6 32 19 6 5 12 24 32 64

12th Scunthorpe 46 6 12 5 27 26 9 7 7 25 22 64

13th Rochdale 46 13 3 7 46 40 6 4 13 30 47 64

14th Lincoln 46 13 3 7 42 26 5 5 13 26 46 62

15th Leyton Orient 46 9 7 7 47 36 8 2 13 36 54 60

16th York 46 11 5 7 37 29 4 6 13 17 36 56

17th Darlington 46 11 4 8 36 28 4 3 16 25 46 52

18th Shrewsbury 46 9 4 10 35 39 6 2 15 26 50 51

19th Macclesfield 46 6 6 11 32 37 6 7 10 21 33 49

20th Bristol Rovers 46 7 5 11 37 36 6 4 13 35 53 48

21st Kidderminster 46 6 4 13 26 45 3 9 11 26 46 40

22nd Bury 46 9 3 11 34 33 2 3 18 17 50 39

23rd Bournemouth 46 7 5 11 27 33 2 5 16 24 49 37

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24th R Torquay 46 6 5 12 29 44 4 2 17 26 48 37</pre>

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Thanks chaps. Such a fast start was unexpected but I have to admit that, with the right players in place, my favourite CM0102 tactic does work awfully well.

Season 2 (2002/2003)

After an all too brief break, Calhoun was soon back at his desk preparing for life in the Second Division. With a decent amount of cash available through the TV rights payment he set about pursuing several transfer targets. A club-record £1M was splashed out on Fulham keeper Maik Taylor and a further £400K on versatile Norwich defender Darren Kenton. It took £450K to prise midfielder David Livermore from Millwall with Blackpool accepting £300K for Ian Hughes. Teenage keepers Neil Richards and Matt Dennis came in on free transfers and forward Martin Butler joined from Reading for £400K. In the other direction went Tony Williams to Shrewsbury for £200K, Jim Provett to Cheltenham for £12K and Mikkel Junge Jensen headed off to Norway for £20K. Full back Jonathan Bass was deemed surplus to requirements and went to Swindon for £65K.

Calhoun’s first month in the new division encompassed a 2-1 defeat of Mansfield in the League Cup and a perfectly symmetrical record in the league – won two, lost two, drawn one. The highlight of the month was a stunning 6-0 win at Peterborough on a day when everything went right for the visitors. September saw further success in the League Cup, Gordon Watson scoring both goals in a giant-killing 2-1 win at home to Premiership Everton, one of the biggest wins in the club’s history. Their league form was also encouraging that month with four wins out of five, including a morale-boosting 3-0 win at high-flying Oldham, lifting them to a playoff place. Ravneng had carried his excellent form up a division and Gavin McGowan had established himself on the left side of defence. Livermore and Widdrington were pivotal figures in midfield and Martin Butler was excelling in the support striker position. Before the end of the month Calhoun made moves to further strengthen his midfield, bringing in Paul McKenna from Preston for a fee of £350K.

Maik Taylor was proving to be frustratingly inconsistent for a £1M keeper. Generally excellent, he was prone to the odd nightmare game and one such performance cost his team three points at home to Plymouth at the start of October. That apart, there was no stopping Calhoun’s team in the league that month as 5 straight wins took them to the top of the table, two points clear of Oldham. Their League Cup run continued with another win over higher-level opposition as Southampton, relegated to Division One last season, were destroyed 4-0 at Victoria Park. Calhoun was rewarded with his first managerial award in Division Two and his team were handed a plum tie in the League Cup 4th round – a trip to Old Trafford.

An early-November defeat at Stockport saw the ‘Pool slip from the top of the table. They recovered with a victory over Brentford but then conceded three goals in three minutes at home to Crewe to lose 3-2 and a further 1-0 defeat at bottom club Boston United dropped them down to third. But there was more joy in the cups as Scarborough were beaten in the first round of the FA Cup. In the big game at Man United they matched their more illustrious opponents stride for stride and with the game scoreless after extra time it took a penalty shootout to settle the tie. Unfortunately United triumphed but it was a courageous effort from Calhoun’s side and at least they had the consolation of a bumper pay day.

In early December the brief FA Cup run was ended by a 2-1 loss at home to Tranmere but the second string managed to squeeze past Sheffield United on penalties in the Vans Trophy. The demanding December fixture list was negotiated with three wins and a draw, leaving Calhoun’s side top by two points over Bristol City. Then on December 29th, after a 2-1 defeat at Grimsby and with his team in 21st place in Division One, Derby manager John Gregory was sacked. At first the good people of Hartlepool paid no heed to this news – another managerial sacking wasn’t exactly unusual at that time of year. But within days the rumours had started – Brig Calhoun was on the Derby shortlist. The 1-0 defeat of Peterborough on New Years Day was overshadowed by “Don’t Leave Us Now†and “Brig Must Stay†banners. With neither club confirming nor denying that talks were in progress and Brig himself uncharacteristically refusing to comment to the press, speculation increased day by day. Then on January 10th 2003 the announcement was made – Brig Calhoun had been appointed as the new manager of Derby County.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BobBev:

Thanks chaps. Such a fast start was unexpected but I have to admit that, with the right players in place, my favourite CM0102 tactic does work awfully well.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I'm playing my challenge on CM01/02 and I'm finding exactly the same thing.

Well done on the promotion icon14.gif and an excellently-written story as usual.

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Thanks chaps

Season 2 (2002/2003) Continued

He left a club at the top of the table in the Second Division to join a team stuck in a relegation dogfight in the division above. Having just missed out on promotion to the Premiership last season when they lost 2-0 to Leicester in the Playoff Final, Derby had slumped to 22nd position and manager Gregory paid the price with his job. But Brig was very excited by the prospects at County. He saw them as a club with great potential – Pride Park was an excellent stadium that could hold over 33,000 fans. There was money in the bank, transfer funds were available and in Brig’s opinion not a bad squad of players. He felt that this season’s problems were the making of the departing manager and was confident that he could quickly turn things around on the pitch.

With just two days to prepare before his first game his main concern was to start to familiarise his players with the “Calhoun Formation†that we wanted them to adopt. Despite a 2-1 defeat at Burnley, the new boss wasn’t too unhappy with the overall performance. Fabrizio Ravanelli scored his first goal of the season and with a little more luck would have added to his total. His next match came a few days later in an FA Cup replay at home to Norwich and a good performance ended with a 3-0 win. Another good display followed at home to Cardiff in the league but despite exerting intense pressure Derby failed to score and paid the price when an 85th minute penalty robbed them of a point.

With three games under his belt, Calhoun felt that he was starting to get a handle on some of his players, although with 50 players on the books there was still a lot to learn. Former West Brom stopper Russell Hoult was a new arrival at the start of the season and was a player that Brig had considered at Hartlepool before going with Maik Taylor. Warren Barton was the type of player that Brig liked – versatile, hard working and not in the least flashy – it was a shame that he would be joining Burnley in the summer. 22-year-old Chris Riggott was a potential star in the centre of defence and when Horacio Carbonari recovered from his calf strain then the two could make a good partnership. Mica Hyde, Craig Burley and Per Frandsen were all experienced campaigners in midfield but Brig was concerned about the lack of a real goalscorer. Ravanelli still had class but at 34 he was clearly over the hill and would be allowed to leave at the end of his contract. Venezuelan Ruberth Moran didn’t appear to offer too much but Robbie Blake could work out as a withdrawn striker.

Calhoun made a quick move for several ‘Pool players but was rebuffed, although he came close to getting Ravneng but lost out when Man United trumped his wage offer. Former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers was installed as Player/Manager at Brig’s previous club – an interesting choice and he would be watching with curiosity to see how it worked out. Calhoun’s move had triggered a backlash back at Hartlepool as the fans turned on their former manager for, as they saw it at least, deserting them and their team. But Brig was pretty thick skinned and did his best to ignore the vitriol that poured forth. His ruthless streak extended beyond his dealing with his players and into his own career – he was single-minded in his desire for success and had no regrets about leaving Hartlepool as he clearly saw Derby as offering much more potential.

The reward for the FA Cup victory over Norwich was a 4th round tie at home to Arsenal and Brig’s team defied all expectations by outplaying the visitors and winning 4-2. He was now starting to imbibe his players with that most elusive and yet powerful of qualities – self-belief. As he would show throughout his career, Brig Calhoun had a knack of bringing out the best in his players and the shock defeat of Arsenal was a prime illustration of this. Still buoyed after the win his team then gained their first league victory since his arrival, a 2-0 win at Coventry. Their first home win came with a 1-0 defeat of Portsmouth, a result that lifted them out of the bottom three. A 1-0 defeat at Blackburn in the FA Cup was followed by three straight league wins, taking them to 17th and Calhoun was recognised as Manager of the Month. Brig also completed his first transfer deal since arriving, signing defender Luke Young from Charlton for £1.3M.

March was a productive month in the league with three wins and a draw – the only defeat coming at top of the table Aston Villa. Now in 16th place Brig was surprised to see that his team were a mere 12 points outside the playoff zone. Certain sections of the local press were running stories that the signing of Luke Young was a big mistake but Calhoun was quick to defend the player, sentiments echoed by both the fans and the club Chairman. He would be rewarded with a series of powerful performances as the 23-year-old set about repaying his manager’s faith.

April began with an excellent 3-0 defeat of promotion challengers Southampton with unheralded Finnish midfielder Simo Valakari particularly impressive. Brig was playing him in the critical position in front of the defence and the 29-year-old international was proving to be a natural in that role. Keeper Russell Hoult was rewarded for his consistency by being the only Derby player to make the First Division Select. In Derby’s next game Moran scored all three goals in the defeat of Stoke as he sought to prove his goalscoring credentials. Two more wins followed before the sequence was broken with a draw at home to Wimbledon. His team’s wonderful form saw Calhoun receive another managerial award and Valakari was recognised as Player of the month as Derby had now risen to 10th place.

Brig was saddened to see that Hartlepool had fared poorly since his departure, slipping to a 10th place finish with a terrible run of form. Simo Valakari rounded off a fine season by being voted the Supporters Player of the Year

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English First Division - Monday 26th May 2003

*********************************************************************************************

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C Aston Villa 46 18 3 2 46 25 6 9 8 31 35 84

2nd P Watford 46 13 3 7 51 41 12 3 8 36 38 81

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3rd Southampton 46 14 5 4 43 25 9 4 10 37 36 78

4th Wimbledon 46 13 4 6 42 32 10 5 8 36 40 78

5th Coventry 46 8 8 7 25 25 14 3 6 44 26 77

6th P Birmingham 46 14 6 3 51 31 7 7 9 43 44 76

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7th Luton 46 16 0 7 47 24 7 6 10 37 38 75

8th Millwall 46 15 2 6 54 30 7 4 12 32 44 72

9th Portsmouth 46 13 6 4 49 31 7 4 12 27 36 70

10th DERBY 46 13 6 4 38 24 7 2 14 32 47 68

11th Walsall 46 15 4 4 52 31 4 6 13 21 41 67

12th Nottm Forest 46 15 2 6 48 26 5 3 15 26 47 65

13th Stoke 46 14 4 5 49 32 5 4 14 30 48 65

14th Cardiff 46 12 5 6 43 35 6 3 14 25 36 62

15th Ipswich 46 13 1 9 56 44 6 4 13 37 60 62

16th Sheff Wed 46 12 4 7 34 21 5 6 12 26 35 61

17th Norwich 46 12 4 7 39 29 5 4 14 28 44 59

18th Preston 46 7 6 10 27 29 8 5 10 36 36 56

19th Burnley 46 9 7 7 35 34 5 7 11 31 44 56

20th Brighton 46 10 7 6 40 28 2 6 15 24 52 49

21st Bradford 46 9 4 10 34 39 5 3 15 26 43 49

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

22nd R Reading 46 9 5 9 37 32 3 6 14 23 45 47

23rd R Grimsby 46 7 9 7 36 42 4 3 16 32 50 45

24th R Wigan 46 6 6 11 40 43 5 4 14 33 51 43</pre>

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Season 3 (2003/2004)

The summer saw a bit of a clearout in the Derby playing staff and with various pre-arranged transfers, contract expiries and the release of some younger players the squad was cut to a more manageable 36 with more potential departures in the offing. There were also some new faces arriving as Calhoun began to bring in players that his scouts had been tracking. Lucas Cornwall was a promising young forward who had been released by Fulham and came in on a free transfer. Brig then activated the £400K release clause in David Livermore’s contract with Hartlepool to bring him on board. Livermore was a typical Calhoun player – solid and dependable he would do whatever was best for the team. The best part of £3M then went to West Brom to bring in midfielder Andy Johnson and striker Lee Hughes and as the summer progressed Calhoun accepted a £2.1M bid from Watford for Craig Burley and he moved south.

As competitive action got underway Brig's team certainly hit the ground running, winning 5-0 at Plymouth but losing centre back Riggott for several weeks. The first home game saw another win, 2-1 over Burnley, but also another injured centre half – Carbonari the victim this time. Then Doncaster were despatched from the League Cup with young Damien Delaney scoring a hat trick. The 22-year-old midfielder had been a permanent fixture in the team since Calhoun’s arrival and his recent elevation to the full Irish squad was testament to his fine form. The team tasted defeat at Coventry but recovered to beat Ipswich. There was one more new face before the end of the month, midfielder Paul Evans who cost £1.5M from Bradford. The month ended with Derby in a healthy 3rd place. Lee Hughes had found the net 6 times in 5 starts and looked to be capable of providing a serious goal threat and Johnson, Livermore and Evans were all impressing in midfield.

September proved to be an action-packed and productive month as Derby went on a winning spree. They won all six league games and in the middle of that run they also had a victory in the League Cup. Calhoun was beginning to impart his own desire for success into his players and they were responding in kind. The team was displaying the sort of resilience that would become a trademark of Brig throughout his career. This was typified by the two games that they played against Southampton. In the league match at the beginning of the month Derby came back from two goals down to snatch a 3-2 win. Then 10 days later they met in the League Cup and as the game entered stoppage time the Saints led 2-1 and looked like revenging the earlier result. But a dramatic late goal took the game into extra time where Clahoun’s team scored again to get the win. The manager continually emphasised the importance of being a 90-minute team and playing until the final whistle and last-gasp goals were not uncommon at Derby. The win over Walsall came courtesy of a stoppage-time strike from Lee Hughes for example. Not that his team just ground out results – when they really hit their stride they could be unstoppable, the 6-1 demolition of Millwall evidence of that.

So entering October Derby topped the table, unbeaten in the league and 5 points clear of Man City. Lee Hughes had 14 goals to his name as he proved to be ideally suited to Calhoun’s lone striker formation. Livermore, Johnson and Valakari were dominant figures in midfield and it was difficult to see any area of weakness in the team. In a month that featured two regional derbies eleven more points were bagged. Nottingham Forest were defeated but the match at Leicester was drawn after the home side failed to hold on to a two-goal lead as Calhoun’s team mounted a second-half fightback. They bowed out of the League Cup with a narrow 1-0 defeat at Premiership West Brom but still held a 6-point lead at the top of the table.

November saw Calhoun lead his team to 5 straight league wins and a Manager of the Month award. They once again showed how hard they were to beat by coming back from two goals down at home to Luton to win 3-2. Lee Hughes continued to score goals for fun and his tally was now 23 in 24 games. The Derby midfield was proving to be the strongest in the league. Valakari was an immovable object in front of the defence, Johnson, Livermore and Evans ruled the centre and Lucas Cornwall had supplanted Robbie Blake in the position behind the front man. Derby and Man City were occupied the two automatic promotion places and were pulling away from the rest of the field. At the other end of the table Norwich were in deep trouble with only 9 points from their 21 games. Back in Hartlepool, Calhoun’s former team were struggling, caught up in a relegation dogfight in Division Two.

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Season 3 (2003/2004) Continued

In early December Simo Valakari presented Brig with an unexpected transfer request. He harboured ambitions to play for what he termed “a big club†and after a brief discussion with his manager his request was accepted. Calhoun did not take kindly to the player’s attitude and he was immediately dropped from the first team with Damien Delaney taking his place and the Finn never wore a Derby shirt again. This reaction was typical of the man and once again showed the ruthless side to his management style – with Calhoun it was his was or the highway. As he said in a later interview “If a player doesn’t want to play for my team then I don’t care who he is, I don’t care how good he is, if he doesn’t have the desire then I have no time for himâ€. On the pitch five more league victories gave Calhoun yet another management award and took his team 15 points clear of Man City. At this point Derby were such a dominant force in the division that they had almost established an aura of invincibility. “We were in such unstoppable form at that time that I felt it was worth a goal start in every game we played†Brig later recalled.

January was a turbulent month for the club, both on and off the pitch. In the league it was four wins out of four to stretch their lead to an incredible 21 points. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as the game at home to Plymouth would demonstrate. Derby had two players dismissed during the match as first keeper Russell Hoult and then centre back Guy Branston fell foul of the referee. But their remarkable team spirit shone through and not only did they avoid a defeat, they managed to win an extraordinary game 4-2. Calhoun was furious with the decisions of the match official and he made his feelings clear. Not only did he refuse to discipline the players concerned, he appealed against their automatic bans and made an official complaint about the referee. This would not be his last run in with the FA but after a series of acrimonious meetings the bans were finally revoked and the match official censured. There was still time to win two FA Cup ties during the month, the second of which took place at Blackburn, a team riding high in the Premiership. With injuries starting to take their toll over a long and demanding season there were a few players absent for that game, perhaps the most notable being striker Lee Hughes. But Calhoun’s players dug deep and, twice coming from behind, they recorded a dramatic 5-3 victory.

Derby’s outstanding form was beginning to draw attention from the media and both the team and their confident (some said arrogant) manger were often in the headlines. Unbeaten in all competitions since the end of October the previous year, Brig’s team had rattled off 17 consecutive wins and hadn’t lost in the league for 27 games, breaking all sorts of club records in the process. But as is often the case in these situations, there was a growing feeling in certain sections of the press that Derby were about to come crashing down to earth with a bang and that it would serve then and their cocky, self-opinionated manager right.

With Valakari determined to leave the club and vanquished to the reserves, Brig took steps to bolster his midfield by bringing in Steve Thomson from Crystal Palace for a fee of £750K. On the playing front, February saw the first signs of a Derby stutter as they failed to win all of their league matches that month, although they did guarantee themselves at least a place in the Playoffs. Lee Hughes set a club record by scoring four goals in the 6-0 thrashing of Oldham but then the team played out two scoreless draws at Luton and Man City. The FA Cup run continued however as they reached the Quarter Finals with a 3-0 win at home to QPR.

March saw Calhoun’s team not only secure promotion – that came in the first game of the month when Lee Hughes scored a hat trick in the 3-1 defeat of Wimbledon – but also confirm their status as league champions when they beat Leicester 3-2. With 7 games still remaining no one could catch Derby and Man City looked to be certain runners-up given their 15-point lead over Southampton. The FA Cup run came to an end though as Arsenal secured a 2-1 win at Highbury thanks to a late goal from Thierry Henry. Despite having the title wrapped up, Calhoun would not let his players relax and rest on their laurels and insisted that they keep working hard for the remainder of the season. As April went into May it looked like his team would reach the end of the season with just a solitary league defeat but it was not to be as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in their penultimate game.

But nonetheless it was a terrific season for Calhoun and his team, one that might never be eclipsed again in Division One. Hoult, Livermore, Johnson and Hughes were all picked for the First Division Select. Lee Hughes had made a major impact on the team, scoring 51 goals in all competitions and being voted the Supporters Player of the Year. Steve Thomson proved to be a perfect replacement for the out of favour Valakari, Russell Hoult was outstanding in goal and the midfield trio of Johnson, Evans and Livermore were peerless. Calhoun’s reputation was soaring and gaining the Division One Manager of the Season award raised his profile even further.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English First Division - Tuesday 1st June 2004

*********************************************************************************************

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C DERBY 46 20 2 1 60 24 17 5 1 55 13 118

2nd P Man City 46 14 9 0 36 14 13 5 5 35 25 95

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3rd Sheff Wed 46 14 6 3 42 22 10 4 9 32 34 82

4th Bolton 46 10 8 5 46 28 10 8 5 40 40 76

5th P Wimbledon 46 13 4 6 39 23 8 8 7 37 34 75

6th Nottm Forest 46 16 3 4 41 18 5 6 12 29 38 72

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7th Southampton 46 14 2 7 32 23 8 3 12 29 31 71

8th Portsmouth 46 15 2 6 40 25 4 9 10 22 35 68

9th Luton 46 11 4 8 46 39 8 6 9 38 42 67

10th Leicester 46 14 2 7 33 24 6 5 12 24 37 67

11th Bradford 46 12 6 5 46 33 6 6 11 29 35 66

12th Millwall 46 12 5 6 38 29 6 6 11 37 40 65

13th Bristol C 46 10 7 6 41 30 6 6 11 16 27 61

14th Cardiff 46 7 10 6 35 30 8 5 10 36 42 60

15th Coventry 46 12 3 8 37 25 4 8 11 27 34 59

16th Burnley 46 10 6 7 34 30 6 4 13 25 35 58

17th Preston 46 11 6 6 32 20 5 2 16 26 40 56

18th Ipswich 46 11 3 9 34 34 5 5 13 18 36 56

19th Walsall 46 10 5 8 39 35 6 2 15 22 41 55

20th Stoke 46 7 10 6 27 25 5 7 11 21 31 53

21st Brighton 46 9 7 7 36 32 4 6 13 31 42 52

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

22nd R Plymouth 46 6 7 10 22 40 2 8 13 25 49 39

23rd R Norwich 46 3 5 15 22 42 5 4 14 23 48 33

24th R Oldham 46 4 6 13 23 42 2 0 21 10 52 24</pre>

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Thanks chaps - safe to say that I expect life to be a bit harder in the top flight.

Season 4 (2004/2005)

As Calhoun prepared for life in the Premiership he made relatively few changes to his squad, despite having a generous transfer budget available. Several fringe players were released at the end of their contracts as well as senior pros Per Frandsen, who joined West Brom, Simo Valakari who moved to Charlton and Chris Powell. The left back had had a very good season but at 34 Brig didn’t feel that he had another season left in him in the top flight. He made only three signings during the off-season. Jeff Whitely joined from Man City for £1.5M, Ian Hughes came in from Hartlepool for £200K and young striker Stephen McPhee from Port Vale for £1M.

The season got off to a flying start with a 4-1 defeat of Man City and then a few days later they travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool, Premiership champions for the last two seasons. A stoppage-time goal gave the home side a narrow 2-1 win but Calhoun was delighted by the standard of his team’s performance. A cracking 3-3 draw with Blackburn followed to leave Derby in 9th place at the end of August.

In common with most teams that are promoted into the Premiership, Derby were finding life at the top took a bit of adjusting to. September started brightly enough with a very good 3-1 win at home to Chelsea but Calhoun’s team was soundly beaten 4-1 at Middlesbrough and were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Sunderland. A number of fringe players were employed in the League Cup tie at Third Division Northampton and the 1-0 win was more comfortable than the scoreline might suggest.

Lying in 13th place at the start of October Derby faced London opposition in 4 of their 5 league games that month with mixed results. They took a point off Crystal Palace and defeated Charlton but lost to Arsenal and Fulham. Sandwiched between those games was a good 2-1 win at Wolves and they ended the month in 12th position. November started with a loss as Calhoun’s team went out of the League Cup with a 1-0 defeat at home to Liverpool. Then they gave up a two-goal lead at Everton to draw 3-3 before being edged out by the odd goal in 7 in an enthralling game at home to Man United. But wins at Watford and Wimbledon got them back on track and the month ended with them holding 8th place in the table.

A busy December produced one of the best victories of Calhoun’s career so far when just three days short of Christmas, Derby inflicted the first league defeat on the season on high-flying Liverpool to end their 18 game unbeaten run. The 3-1 victory at Pride Park was well deserved as the league leaders were outplayed throughout. The month also saw wins over Aston Villa and Man City, a scoreless draw at Leeds and defeats against Newcastle and West Brom. The team held a comfortable 9th place in the Premiership and was gradually starting to find their feet in the Premiership. On the playing front Damien Delaney had been switched from midfield to the left wingback position and was proving to be very effective. Lee Hughes was nowhere near as prolific as last season but was playing well nonetheless. Steve Thomson was doing OK as the holding midfielder but the central trio of Evans, Johnson and Livermore were finding that life in the top flight was a big step up.

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Cheers Dave

Season 4 (2004/2005) Continued

New Years Day saw Calhoun’s team suffer a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in the league. Young striker Stephen McPhee was given a start in the FA Cup tie at home to Third Division Oxford and he made an immediate impact, scoring a hat trick in the 5-0 win. He kept his place and was on target again in the wins over Arsenal and Charlton. The month ended with a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland in the FA Cup 4th round. Midfielder Mica Hyde had been made available for transfer earlier in the season and since that time there had been a running battle between him and Calhoun. The Jamacian international wasn’t happy to be playing in the reserves and he had more than one run-in with the manager on the subject, most of which ended with the player being fined. Both parties were glad when he accepted an offer from Bradford City to join them in the summer.

Stephen McPhee was proving to be a potent weapon in attack and he scored in three of Derby’s four games in February. The team had excellent 3-0 wins over Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace and drew 1-1 at Blackburn. In the final game of the month they suffered a 4-0 drubbing at Sunderland but Calhoun was incensed by what he saw as poor refereeing decisions that resulted in 5 of his players receiving yellow cards and one being sent off. His formal complaint to the FA was upheld but it didn’t exactly gain him many friends amongst the game’s administrators. The situation in the league was interesting – Liverpool and Man United were well out in front and Sunderland had established daylight over the chasing pack. Derby lay 8th but a good finish to the season could certainly give a top-five finish.

But as March moved into April the run of wins that Calhoun was looking for proved elusive. McPhee’s purple patch was short-lived and an injury to the Scotsman allowed Lee Hughes to reclaim his place in the starting lineup. Wins over Everton, Wolves, Wimbledon and Aston Villa were balanced by defeats to Man United, Fulham and Watford but nonetheless Derby entered May clinging on to 6th place with three league games remaining. During April both Lee Hughes and Stephen McPhee made their international debuts. In fact Hughes played twice that month in friendlies, scoring on both occasions. Calhoun’s previous club was relegated from the Second Division and the Hartlepool board dispensed with the services of manager Tim Flowers.

Two wins out of three in May meant that Derby held on to their 6th place, just missing out on European football. The Premiership title went to the wire and was finally decided on goal difference with Man United just edging out Liverpool. Stephen McPhee was Derby’s top scorer with 15 goals and Lucas Cornwall notched 14 from his position behind the striker. Midfielder Paul Evans was voted the Fans Player of the Year.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Premier Division - Wednesday 25th May 2005

*********************************************************************************************

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C Man Utd 38 16 1 2 48 8 11 3 5 41 26 85

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2nd Liverpool 38 15 3 1 27 7 12 1 6 35 25 85

3rd Sunderland 38 14 4 1 41 15 8 2 9 19 24 72

4th Fulham 38 13 5 1 38 14 8 1 10 23 32 69

5th Blackburn 38 12 5 2 38 13 5 9 5 33 31 65

6th DERBY 38 13 1 5 49 25 6 4 9 22 32 62

7th Arsenal 38 12 2 5 40 22 6 5 8 23 20 61

8th W.B.A. 38 12 2 5 41 28 6 3 10 20 35 59

9th Chelsea 38 16 3 0 44 13 1 4 14 16 45 58

10th Crystal Palace 38 11 3 5 32 23 5 2 12 19 34 53

11th Newcastle 38 11 3 5 32 22 5 1 13 23 40 52

12th Charlton 38 11 2 6 28 25 3 4 12 19 34 48

13th Everton 38 8 6 5 28 22 4 4 11 22 35 46

14th Man City 38 9 5 5 32 22 3 4 12 15 38 45

15th Middlesbrough 38 10 2 7 35 21 3 3 13 14 35 44

16th Leeds 38 9 2 8 27 21 4 2 13 16 39 43

17th Aston Villa 38 8 2 9 28 23 4 1 14 20 39 39

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18th R Wimbledon 38 6 5 8 24 29 2 5 12 17 37 34

19th R Watford 38 4 6 9 28 38 2 5 12 14 32 29

20th R Wolves 38 4 4 11 22 34 2 3 14 14 49 25</pre>

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Thanks chaps. Bartley - the next stage is to win the Premiership and get to a European final.

Season 5 (2005/2006)

Centre back Chris Riggott had been starting to put in the kind of performances that Calhoun expected of a player with his potential and the manger was keen to bring in another quality central defender. A number of players were allowed to leave at the end of their contracts including Carbonari and the ageing Paul Williams, lending more urgency to the search for a centre back. An early addition to the squad was a player that Brig new well from his Hartlepool days, Kristian Ravneng. Having failed to establish himself at Man United he was made available for transfer and Calhoun was quick to agree a £1.8M fee.

The Derby board had also been busy and had invested a considerable sum in the infrastructure at Pride Park, expanding the capacity to over 42,000 and upgrading the training facilities and youth academy. Having missed out on a UEFA Cup place, Brig was given food for thought when his team was offered entry to the Inter-Toto Cup. After some though he decided that they should go for it. It would mean bringing the playing staff back from holiday early and they would be far from match-fit but it could be worth it. If nothing else it would serve as a competitive warm up for the league campaign and it would also expose the players to some European experience.

Derby entered the competition in the 3rd round and in mid-July they set off to Croatia for the first leg of their tie against HNK Cibalia. To a large extent it was a journey into the unknown but the team put in a solid performance to gain a scoreless draw. The home leg proved to be just as tight and extra time was required before a penalty award gave Derby a 1-0 aggregate win. The next round followed quickly and Brig called up several of his more promising reserves for the trip to Strasbourg in France to give then some first team experience. He was fairly pleased with their performance in the 1-1 draw but he went for a more experienced lineup for the return leg. With the players now approaching full fitness the team put in an excellent performance, winning 4-0.

Calhoun’s team faced French opposition once more as they took on Monaco for a place in the UEFA Cup. A powerful performance in the home leg resulted in a 4-0 win and a huge step towards Europe proper. Prior to the return leg, Derby started their league campaign with a home game against West Brom and gained a 2-1 win. The game in France ended 1-0 in Derby’s favour and they were entered into the draw for the UEFA Cup. During August Brig brought in a couple of central defenders to the squad – Dane Morten Petersen joined on a free transfer and young Scot Gordon McNab joined on a season-long loan from Rangers. Despite this he was still looking for a quality partner for Riggott and continued to scan the market.

Results were mixed in the league during September. A decent 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle was followed by a poor defeat at struggling Huddersfield. They had a good win at Charlton and came close to upsetting Liverpool, leading 2-0 at half time but conceding three second-half goals for a disappointing defeat. The 1st round of the UEFA Cup was much more productive with wins both home and away against Norwegian side Valerenga. In the away leg young Izale McLeod scored an excellent hat trick in the 4-0 win and Stephen McPhee got a brace in the home tie. There were encouraging performances from several players – Ravneng and Delaney were superb on the flanks, McLeod had impressed playing behind the front man and Evans and Johnson were strong in midfield. Lee Hughes was amongst the goals again, despite missing several games with a knee problem.

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Season 5 (2005/2006) Continued

October saw little improvement in their league form. They suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat at Middlesbrough and their other 4 league games were drawn, including an extraordinary 3-3 draw at home to Arsenal. 3-0 down after 15 minutes, the game was all square by the half hour mark. They recorded the same scoreline in the 1st leg of their UEFA Cup 2nd round tie at Benfica and made progress in the League cup with a defeat of Portsmouth. The playing staff was strengthened that month with the arrival of 24-year-old England international Francis Jeffers on a £3.5M move from Arsenal. Ironically his second appearance from the club came against his old club and the striker scored twice to cap an amazing comeback.

A highly contrasting season was beginning to unfold at Derby County football club. In the league they were in terrible form, losing all three of their games in the Premiership in November and dropping to second-bottom of the table. Their luck was typified by the game at Everton – 1-0 ahead with 10 minutes remaining they lost goal-scorer Jeffers to injury and conceded twice to lose. But in the League Cup wins over Nottingham Forest and Millwall took them to the Semi Finals. It was the same story in the UEFA Cup as they recorded a stunning 4-0 win over Benfica at Pride Park to gain a 7-3 aggregate victory.

Calhoun continued to look to strengthen his squad and in early December he made two significant acquisitions. Experienced Greek international defender Trianos Dellas joined from Roma for £575K and young goalkeeper Chris Kirkland agreed a £2.5M move from Liverpool. Both players were included in the first team and they made an immediate impact. A hectic end of year saw Derby contest no less than 7 league games and they were denied an unbeaten month only by a last-minute goal at Chelsea in their final game of the year. Wins over Luton and Crystal Palace were followed by three consecutive goalless draws with Man United, Newcastle and Man City to lift the team up to 15th. However their UEFA Cup run came to an end in the 3rd round. After securing an excellent 0-0 draw in Lyon they had hope of progressing. But in the home leg they fell two goals behind and looked down and out. However, they staged a fighting comeback and scored twice to square the game but were eliminated on away goals.

Progress continued in January with a 100% record in the league as West Brom, Southampton and Huddersfield were all beaten and the team moved up to 12th. The return of Jeffers from injury coincided with Derby’s FA Cup 3rd round tie at Arsenal and he opened the scoring against his former employers. Unfortunately Calhoun’s team couldn’t hold on to their lead and were eliminated 3-1. The loss of Steve Thomson for 2 months with a groin strain was a blow for the team as he was a key figure in front of the defence. Then keeper Kirkland also suffered an injury and he was sidelined for a month.

February started in the hardest manner possible with consecutive games against the top two in the league, Man United and Liverpool. United were beaten 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jeffers but that scoreline was reversed in a tough game at Anfield. They were unbeaten in their three other league games that month, beating Middlesbrough and Charlton and drawing at Man City and moved to 9th in the table. But their League Cup adventure came to an end as they went out to Fulham 4-3 on aggregate. The home game of the two-legged Semi Final was drawn 1-1 but Calhoun’s team raced into a two-goal lead through Jeffers in the return only to concede three times and be eliminated. During the month keeper Russell Hoult was sold to Bolton for £1.5M, Brig reckoning that he had enough cover for that position.

In March Derby began a run of games against the teams immediately above them in the table and Calhoun was hopeful of continued progress. That was soon dashed however as they lost both of their matches in an abbreviated league programme – a 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland and a 3-0 loss at Fulham. During that period they also lost key defender Chris Riggott for a month with a groin strain.

April began promisingly with a 2-0 defeat of Blackburn and then an excellent 4-1 win at Arsenal during which Francis Jeffers kept up his habit of scoring against his old club with two well-taken goals. Four more victories that month gave Calhoun the kind of winning streak that he had been looking for all season and their six straight wins took them to 6th in the table. It also brought the manager his first managerial award in the top flight. A further win and a draw in the final two games of the season, coupled with other results involving teams above them, gave Derby a 4th place at the end of the season, a result that delighted everyone at the club.

On the playing front strikers McPhee and Jeffers were both superb, each man coming close to a goal a game strike rate. Ravneng and Delaney made a powerful pair of wingbacks and Steve Thomson had another fine season in front of the defence with Ian Hughes substituting superbly when required. Dellas proved to be a good buy in the centre of defence and formed a strong partnership with Riggott. Calhoun was more concerned with his midfield. His regular trio of Evans, Johnson and Livermore had not been as effective this season. Youngster Weckstrom had taken over from Livermore midway through the season to some effect but Brig was keen to look for some alternatives. Cornwall played well behind the striker and teenager Chris Hughes broke into the first team to good effect and he looked to have a big future.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Premier Division - Monday 22nd May 2006

*********************************************************************************************

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C Liverpool 38 14 3 2 41 17 11 3 5 29 22 81

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2nd Man Utd 38 17 1 1 38 12 7 7 5 27 21 80

3rd Sunderland 38 15 3 1 48 16 7 5 7 21 24 74

4th DERBY 38 10 6 3 36 19 7 5 7 24 23 62

5th Blackburn 38 13 1 5 33 23 4 10 5 25 29 62

6th Man City 38 9 7 3 25 15 8 3 8 21 25 61

7th Chelsea 38 10 8 1 28 15 5 7 7 21 23 60

8th Arsenal 38 11 4 4 37 23 5 6 8 35 36 58

9th Leeds 38 11 1 7 37 28 6 5 8 31 28 57

10th Fulham 38 12 3 4 38 20 4 5 10 16 31 56

11th Aston Villa 38 9 5 5 39 31 6 3 10 32 35 53

12th Newcastle 38 8 7 4 29 18 4 3 12 27 39 46

13th Crystal Palace 38 6 6 7 23 26 5 5 9 19 31 44

14th W.B.A. 38 5 7 7 18 15 5 4 10 18 33 41

15th Middlesbrough 38 9 4 6 32 19 2 3 14 14 34 40

16th Luton 38 6 3 10 26 36 5 3 11 22 34 39

17th Charlton 38 6 3 10 28 36 5 2 12 23 37 38

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18th R Southampton 38 8 5 6 26 24 2 1 16 11 43 36

19th R Everton 38 7 6 6 30 27 1 4 14 15 46 34

20th R Huddersfield 38 2 3 14 16 38 7 2 10 27 34 32</pre>

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Thanks Simon - it's going to prove tough to get ahead Man U and Liverpool though.

Season 6 (2006/2007)

Calhoun made a few changes to the Derby squad in the off-season. The playing staff was reduced further when a further eight fringe players left the club when their contracts expired, including a handful of graduates from the Youth Academy that were just never going to make the grade. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as several players were brought in as well. The biggest news was the club-record £9.25M paid to bring the versatile Steven Reid from Millwall. The 25-year-old could play in defence, midfield, or even in attack and Brig saw his flexibility as a great advantage. Other new faces included Cameroonian forward Kalle Stone who joined from Vitesse, Ishmail Yakuba a young defender from Crewe and young Greek centre back Anestis Anastasiadis who moved from Watford.

The new season began with a draw and two wins in Derby’s first three league games in August, a promising start that left them in second place in the Premiership. They opened with a 1-1 draw at home to Portsmouth before travelling to Leeds where they came back from two down to grab a 3-2 win. They finished with an excellent 5-2 defeat of Middlesborough as Calhoun’s side carried on from where they left off last season.

Having made such a strong finish last season they had no need of the Inter-Toto as they qualified for the UEFA Cup by right. In the 1st round of the competition they drew Czech team Teplice, winning both legs 2-0 for a very good 4-0 aggregate. Their league form in September was impeccable – three wins out of three taking them to the top of the table above the mighty Liverpool, champions in three of the last five seasons. David Livermore seemed to have re-captured his best form and, having forced his was back into the team, he was named the Premiership’s Player of the Month.

October saw both Riggott and Jeffers pick up injuries and they were soon joined in the treatment room by Lucas Cornwall. The month started well enough on the pitch with a defeat of Fulham but then it took a good second half fightback at West Brom to retrieve a two-goal deficit and get a draw. Calhoun’s team then suffered their first league defeat of the season as Liverpool showed their class with a 2-0 win at Anfield. Worse was to follow a few days later with an identical scoreline at Newcastle. Brig needed to lift his team for their next match, a visit from Man United, otherwise their promising start was in danger of turning into a demoralising slump. His players responded superbly, and buoyed by the return of Riggott and Jeffers they secured a fine 3-1 win. Derby midfielder Chris Hughes, just turned 20 but now a regular starter in the first team, was voted Young Player of the Month for his good run of form.

Derby managed to keep their good form going into November despite injuries to Thomson, Livermore, Petersen, Hughes and Cornwall at various times in the month. They survived a tricky UEFA Cup draw against Trabzonspor, coming back from the intimidating atmosphere in Turkey with a good 2-2 draw. The home leg saw them run riot, winning 5-0 with McPhee scoring a hat trick. They faced Man United once more, this time in the League Cup, and Calhoun fielded a weakened team that suffered a 4-0 thrashing. But it was their league form that gave the manager most satisfaction, adopting to various changes in personnel as fitness dictated, they still managed to win all four of their games and entered December at the top of the table. But it was very tight at the top, with little to choose between the top half dozen. During the month Calhoun had a falling out with defender Luke Young who had made noises to the press about moving clubs. After a brief conversation with the player, Brig moved him into the reserves and slapped him on the transfer list. Within weeks a deal had been agreed with Crystal Palace and Young was on his way.

With half a dozen league matches to be played, December was a hectic month to say the least. Calhoun’s team was also involved in UEFA Cup action, completing their 3rd round tie with Danish side Brondby. They had a good 1-0 win in the away leg in late November and they completed the job with a memorable 6-2 win at Pride Park. Their excellent progress in the league continued with wins over Charlton, Chelsea and Portsmouth and draws with Sunderland and Leeds. Their only blemish was a 1-0 defeat at home to Man City, a loss that cost them the top spot in the table and they slipped to second. At the midway point of the season the top of the table was still pretty congested but Calhoun was delighted at the progress that his team was making.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Premier Division - Monday 1st January 2007

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st Man Utd 20 8 0 1 18 3 7 3 1 28 10 48

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2nd DERBY 21 7 2 1 21 8 7 2 2 20 12 46

3rd Liverpool 21 8 2 0 25 7 5 3 3 13 7 44

4th Man City 21 7 3 1 17 7 6 2 2 14 7 44

5th Sunderland 21 7 4 0 17 5 5 3 2 17 12 43

6th Blackburn 21 9 1 1 25 11 3 3 4 13 17 40</pre>

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Season 6 (2006/2007) Continued

December saw another couple of changes on the playing front. Firstly Brig brought in Portuguese midfielder Marco Ferreira from Porto for £975K. Then he received the unexpected news that David Livermore, whose contract was unprotected, had accepted an offer from Sunderland and he left before the end of the year.

Derby’s league form took a downward turn in January with a 1-0 defeat at Middlesborough and draws with West Brom and Blackburn. Calhoun’s side slipped down to 5th place, ten points behind leaders Man United. They saw plenty of FA Cup action too, beating Man City in the 3rd round after a replay. They also required a second game to get past Chelsea before getting a more comfortable 2-0 win against Bristol Rovers of the Second Division. Back in the league, four wins out of four gave the team a real boost, especially their 1-0 defeat of Man United at Old Trafford. They entered March just three points behind the leaders and Calhoun was starting to believe that they could mount a serious challenge for the title. Traianos Dellas was having an excellent season in the centre of defence and he was recognised as Player of the Month with Brig taking the managerial award.

March was dominated by cup action as Derby went from strength to strength in Europe. They overcame PAO (also known as Panathinaikos) 3-0 on aggregate, winning the home leg and then playing out a goalless draw in Greece. In the Quarter Finals they met Italian club Fiorentina and a terrific 4-0 win at home virtually ensured their qualification. They lost the away leg 2-1 but still managed a comfortable aggregate victory. They progressed to the Semi Finals of the FA Cup as well with an enthralling 6-3 win at home to Watford. In fact they were so busy with cup games that they only played two league games in the month – they beat Fulham 3-2 but then suffered a critical 2-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool to slip down to 3rd. This left Man United in pole position to take the title but all was not lost as it was still very tight at the top.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Premier Division - Sunday 1st April 2007

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st Man Utd 30 12 1 2 31 7 8 6 1 36 17 67

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2nd Liverpool 30 12 2 0 36 7 7 5 4 19 12 64

3rd DERBY 30 10 3 2 29 12 9 3 3 25 15 63

4th Sunderland 31 12 4 0 26 9 6 4 5 20 20 62

5th Blackburn 31 13 2 1 33 12 5 4 6 24 26 60

6th Man City 31 10 5 1 25 10 7 3 5 19 15 59</pre>

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As you will see Simon, it did turn out to be costly!

Season 6 (2006/2007) Continued

Their cause wasn’t helped by a nasty injury to Francis Jeffers and it was likely that the striker would be out for most of April. With several players looking unlikely to agree contract renewals in the summer, Brig knew that he would need to bring in some new blood and before the end of the transfer window he managed to bring in 24-year-old Greek left back Giannis Kalogeras from AEK for £1M.

April was a great month for Calhoun’s team. The only negative was a 3-2 defeat by Sunderland in the FA Cup Semi Final but that disappointment was more than made up for by their performance in the UEFA Cup. Having been drawn against the mighty FC Bayern they pulled off a magnificent 3-0 win in Munich in the first leg. They lost the return 1-0 but still qualified for the final comfortably. In the league their only blip was a 1-1 draw with Arsenal – apart from that they won their four other Premiership matches that month. On the other hand leaders Man United won all five of theirs and showed no sign of slipping up. They held a 6-point lead over Derby and it looked like Brig’s team were playing for the runners-up position. His squad was starting to get hit with injuries with no less than 5 players - Everson, Thomson, Yakuba, Petersen and Lee Hughes - all injured late in the month. Thomson was the most serious and he would miss the rest of the season. Fortunately Jeffers was now fit enough to play so it wasn’t all bad news.

It was unfortunate for the players concerned – centre back Traianos Dellas and young midfielder Chris Hughes – that they would miss the UEFA Cup Final through suspension. It was a proud moment for Calhoun as he led his team out at the Amsterdam ArenA to face Parma. He was even prouder when his lads lifted the trophy thanks to a 1-0 win, the only goal of the game coming from Andy Johnson. In the league, wins over Cardiff, Man City and Sunderland secured his team a second place finish in the Premiership and sealed a fabulous season for the club.

There were a number of successes on the playing front. Steven Reid was outstanding and was chosen for the Premier Division Select and was voted both Irish Player of the Year and the Derby supporters Player of the Year. Kalogeras looked like working out well in the left side of defence and Ravneng had another fine season on the right. McPhee and Jeffers were both among the goals and Dellas was excellent in the heart of the defence. Lee Hughes had a poor season though, spending most of it complaining that he wasn’t in the first team. However, to his credit he did perform when called upon late in the season, scoring 4 times in 6 starts. Overall Calhoun was pretty pleased with his squad but he still resolved to bring in some new faces sooner rather than later – Johnson had turned 33 and Evans wasn’t far behind and he wanted some younger players in midfield. As pleased as he was with his achievements it was still a surprise to Brig when he was awarded the Premiership Manager of the Year.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">*********************************************************************************************

English Premier Division - Tuesday 5th June 2007

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C Man Utd 38 15 1 3 40 9 11 7 1 47 19 86

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2nd DERBY 38 14 3 2 39 14 12 4 3 34 19 85

3rd Liverpool 38 16 3 0 45 8 9 5 5 25 16 83

4th Blackburn 38 15 3 1 39 15 7 5 7 33 33 74

5th Sunderland 38 15 4 0 33 13 7 4 8 22 25 74

6th Leeds 38 13 3 3 25 9 6 8 5 28 23 68

7th Man City 38 10 6 3 26 15 9 3 7 24 22 66

8th Newcastle 38 13 3 3 33 11 4 4 11 22 29 58

9th Chelsea 38 12 2 5 37 19 4 4 11 16 25 54

10th Fulham 38 10 4 5 34 23 4 3 12 28 35 49

11th Arsenal 38 11 7 1 25 13 2 3 14 15 34 49

12th Crystal Palace 38 7 3 9 31 34 6 3 10 17 26 45

13th Cardiff 38 10 2 7 37 30 1 4 14 15 49 39

14th Portsmouth 38 5 7 7 23 28 4 4 11 21 35 38

15th Middlesbrough 38 5 8 6 23 24 4 3 12 16 35 38

16th Aston Villa 38 6 5 8 27 27 2 7 10 19 38 36

17th W.B.A. 38 4 11 4 26 21 2 5 12 7 31 34

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18th R Watford 38 5 5 9 30 41 2 3 14 20 45 29

19th R Charlton 38 5 2 12 27 45 1 5 13 17 40 25

20th R Luton 38 3 6 10 22 39 1 4 14 12 43 22</pre>

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Cheers PM - let's hope so.

Season 7 (2007/2008)

There were a few changes to the squad over the summer with several reserves released that were never going to make the grade. Midfielder Ian Hughes retired, a decision that surprised Brig as the 32-year-old had recently agreed a one-year extension to his contact. Andy Johnson and Paul Evans were also given 12-month extensions but the manager planned to phase them out of the first team over the course of the season. There were four new arrivals at Pride Park too. Experienced midfielder Gerard arrived on a £2.6M deal from Sevilla. The other three were all in their early to mid twenties – midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, forward Goran Pandev and centre back Claudio Terzi – as Calhoun looked to build for the future. Only Terzi cost any money - £1.1M from Bologna. His scouts had been tracking Toulalan and Pandev and they came on free transfers from Nante and Ajax respectively.

The start of the season presented Calhoun with a major problem – of the 9 games that his team played in August and September, they suffered three defeats, all of which came in the league. They lost their opening game at home to Middlesborough, scraped a point against West Brom but then lost to Portsmouth and Man United before rallying to win at Newcastle at the end of the month. In Europe it was a completely different story – Derby beat Juventus 1-0 to lift the European Super Cup and they were unbeaten in their Champions League group. They drew at Leverkusen and Real Madrid and beat Ajax at home. The net result was that they sat in 17th place in the Premiership – a huge blow to Calhoun’s hopes of taking the title, as they were already 14 points behind leaders Liverpool. Brig decided that he was to blame for this situation. In his desire to win the Premiership he had decided that he would field what he though was his strongest 11 in the league and have a different lineup for the European games. There were two problems with this – firstly, some of his first choice selections were being outplayed by his second string and secondly the effects of not fielding a settled team selection was too disruptive. To his credit, Brig quickly recognised his mistake and started to rectify it before the month was out.

October saw a total transformation for Derby – four wins out of four in the league boosted them to 9th in the table, although they were still 10 points adrift of surprise leaders Middlesborough. They did suffer their first Champions League defeat however, a 2-0 loss at home to Leverkusen. But an excellent 3-1 defeat of Real Madrid at Pride Park kept them on top of a very tight group and a good result at Ajax could see them through to the second phase. They even had time for a win in the League Cup, beating Southampton 2-0 at home. Brig was rewarded for his team’s fine form with another managerial award, the 18th of his career so far.

Derby’s good league form did not continue on into November as they lost to both Aston Villa and Leeds before beating Bristol City. They progressed in the Champions League though – a 3-1 win in Ajax ensuring that they topped the group and qualified for the second phase. Their first group game thereafter was a 0-0 draw at home to Club Brugge. They made a relatively exit from the League Cup, losing 2-1 at Man United. During the month centre back Traianos Dellas fell foul of Calhoun, complaining that he needed a new challenge and requesting a move. His wish was immediately granted and he quickly agreed a contract with Arsenal to take effect at the end of the season.

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Season 7 (2007/2008) Continued

Calhoun’s side played an incredible nine games in a manic December, eight of them in the league. Their sole Champions League game was a 1-1 draw at Hertha BSC, their second draw in two group games. Because of their fixture backlog they found themselves facing both Fulham and Liverpool twice in the month. They only took a point off the Londoners over the two games and after winning 3-1 at Anfield they lost the return 1-0. They also beat Blackburn and Sunderland and drew with Wimbledon and Man City, and ended the year in 6th place, 13 points behind leaders Liverpool.

January was a frustrating month for Calhoun – his team were playing very well but were suffering from the lack of a cutting edge up front. This had been the case all season but for some reason it really hit home that month. Hughes, McPhee and Jeffers were all playing well but they were finding it very difficult to get amongst the goals. Their league match at home to Cardiff early in the month was typical of what Brig was going through – Derby had at least 10 shots on target but the visiting keeper was inspired. Then in the 90th minute the visitors scored a breakaway goal with their only shot on target. But they somehow managed to win their other three league games and make progress in the FA Cup. It took a replay to get past Stoke in round 3 but Cardiff were disposed of at the first attempt in the 4th round.

Late February saw Brig make a move for a striker that he had been following for some time. 26-year-old Anastasios Skalidis had been outstanding for West Brom since his arrival in the UK some 5 seasons ago and the manger felt that he might just be the goalscorer that his team needed. When he learnt of the £7.5M minimum fee recently written into the Greek’s contract he made his move. Skalidis was only one of several very talented Greek players that Brig had his eye on and he planned further excursions into the transfer market over the summer. On the playing front, three wins and a defeat kept Derby moving in the right direction and they now held 3rd place in the table, chasing Man United hard but some way behind champions elect Liverpool. Their double header against Roma in the Champions League had yielded just one point, and that came in Rome courtesy of a scoreless draw, the return at Pride Park ending 2-1 in favour of the visitors. Further progress was made in the FA Cup with a 2-0 defeat of Portsmouth and Derby moved into the Quarter Finals.

March was dominated by Cup action – victories over Club Brugge and Hertha BSC saw Derby qualify from their Champions League group and move into the Quarter Finals. In their FA Cup Quarter Final they required a replay before getting past Sunderland – the first game ended scoreless and the return was just as tight, a McPhee goal the only thing that separated the teams. They also played three league games, beating Chelsea and Leeds and drawing with Man United. With 7 games remaining in the Premiership Calhoun’s side now held second place but were 10 points behind leaders Liverpool having played a game more. The manager was active in the transfer market again, spending £9M to bring Nigerian forward Julius Agahowa from Celtic.

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Season 7 (2007/2008) Continued

April saw mixed success for Calhoun’s team. They went out of the FA Cup in the Semi Finals after a narrow 1-0 defeat to eventual winners Leeds. Progress continued in the Champions League however, after a thrilling contest with Leverkusen. An excellent 2-0 win in the home leg set the team up for the trip to Germany but in the return they found themselves 3-0 down with 10 minutes remaining and staring defeat in the face. But two goals in two minutes from McPhee put them back in front. The home side scored once more near the end for a 4-2 win on the night but Derby triumphed on away goals and moved into the Semi Finals. In the Premiership they beat Leeds and Aston Villa before a 3-1 defeat at high-flying Blackburn dented their hopes. But they bounced back with a 6-1 mauling of Wimbledon with Anastasios Skalidis setting a new club record by scoring five times, a performance that helped the Greek striker pick up the Player of the Month award. At the end of the month they sat 4th in the table but with games in hand over Blackburn and Man United above them.

Early May saw Derby take their leave from the Champions League in heartbreaking fashion. Having fashioned a one-goal lead in the home leg against Inter they faced a tough return match in Milan. After a goalless first half they fell behind to a penalty on 60 minutes but a goal from McPhee five minutes later put them back in front. With 15 minutes remaining the home side squared the tie but Derby still led on away goals. And then deep into the 4th minute of stoppage time the home side scored their 3rd of the night to dump Brig’s team out and take their place in the final. The Italians went on to beat Liverpool on penalties leaving Calhoun even more frustrated. Clearly affected by being so close to their second major European final, his team played poorly in the league, drawing 3 of their last 4 games to finish in a disappointing 4th place.

As Calhoun looked back on what was ultimately an unsatisfactory season he was nonetheless pleased with the performances of a number of his players. Skalidis, McPhee, Reid, Ravneng, Agahowa, Jeffers and Thomson were all worthy of note. The contribution of Steven Reid was particularly pleasing as he scored 14 goals from midfield, despite often being used to provide cover in defence and Brig felt that he would be a key player next season. The Irishman was also recognised as Irish Player of the Year as well as the Fans favourite and Thomson and Skalidis featured in the Premiership Select. Kalle Sone was runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year

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English Premier Division - Tuesday 3rd June 2008

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C Liverpool 38 14 4 1 38 12 10 4 5 25 18 80

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2nd Blackburn 38 15 3 1 40 15 6 5 8 22 28 71

3rd DERBY 38 12 2 5 39 18 8 6 5 27 21 68

4th Man Utd 38 11 6 2 34 11 7 7 5 29 25 67

5th Arsenal 38 14 2 3 38 20 5 5 9 25 26 64

6th Leeds 38 14 3 2 34 10 3 7 9 15 24 61

7th Portsmouth 38 8 4 7 23 19 9 1 9 18 22 56

8th Chelsea 38 10 4 5 37 28 7 1 11 24 39 56

9th Newcastle 38 10 5 4 35 21 4 7 8 22 29 54

10th Everton 38 12 2 5 28 19 5 1 13 16 40 54

11th Middlesbrough 38 12 4 3 35 19 3 4 12 20 31 53

12th Aston Villa 38 12 4 3 35 23 4 0 15 19 46 52

13th Man City 38 9 6 4 21 15 4 6 9 18 19 51

14th Sunderland 38 10 6 3 28 14 4 3 12 14 24 51

15th Fulham 38 9 4 6 27 20 5 4 10 22 30 50

16th Cardiff 38 8 3 8 28 30 5 1 13 21 39 43

17th W.B.A. 38 6 7 6 24 20 3 5 11 18 33 39

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18th R Crystal Palace 38 7 2 10 30 35 4 3 12 22 32 38

19th R Bristol C 38 6 3 10 20 23 2 3 14 11 37 30

20th R Wimbledon 38 6 3 10 24 32 0 4 15 16 55 25</pre>

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Season 8 (2008/2009)

Calhoun was becomingly increasingly fixated on capturing the Premier League title and this became his sole target for the season ahead. Several players left Derby during the summer including Traianos Dellas, Andy Johnson, Paul Evans, Luciano Zavango and Morton Petersen. In addition French youngster Jeremy Toulalan, who had never settled in England after his move, was allowed to return to France and Damien Delaney, who was in dispute with Brig regarding his future, was sold to Middlesbrough. Striker Lee Hughes was deemed surplus to requirements and made a move to Colchester.

Brig was keen to bring some fresh faces into the team too, particularly to bolster the defence and before the start of the season he made several interesting signings. Czech international goalkeeper Petr Cech came in from Marseille for £1.6M, young Greek defender Nikolaos Tobros joined from Racing Genk for £2M and the experienced Steve Finnan cost £6M from Arsenal. He also signed midfielder Kevin Nolan from Newcastle for £4.3M and German midfielder Jorg Bierbaum from non-league Regensburg on a Bosman. He was hopeful that his team would be able to challenge Liverpool for the title this year although the fans on Merseyside fully expected their team to defend the title, especially having forked out over £20M on players during the summer.

The season began in early August with Champions League qualification and a trip to Croatia to face Hajduk. Despite looking a little rusty early in the game, Brig’s team established a comfortable 3-0 lead for the return leg. Most of the Derby first eleven were rested for the home game and the second string played out a 0-0 draw to progress to the group stages. Calhoun’s league campaign got underway with games either side of the return leg, with contrasting results. A Skalidis hat trick was the highlight of the 4-1 win at Cardiff – the red card and subsequent 3-match ban for keeper Cech was crucial in the 2-1 defeat at West Brom. Brig didn’t exactly enhance his reputation with the FA after his formal complaint about the standard of refereeing, and despite upholding his complaint the disciplinary committee still rejected the club’s appeal to have Cech’s ban cancelled, or at least reduced.

Calhoun had cause for concern in the opening game of September as a double-booking saw a sending off for Riggott and Steve Finnan, who had made a splendid start to the season, suffered strained ankle ligaments and would be missing for up to a month. Despite that, Skalidis scored twice in a very good win at Sheffield Wednesday. The Greek striker continued to impress, scoring all the goals in the impressive 4-0 win at home to Chelsea. Further wins at Sunderland and at home to Man City followed and Derby ended the month in 3rd place in the table. Calhoun received the monthly managerial award and Skalidis the Player of the month. But the team did suffer a further injury blow as left back Giannis Kalogeras suffered a hip injury and would be out for 4 months. In the Champions League Brig persisted with sending out a second-choice eleven, with mixed results – a 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, a fine 6-2 win at home to BATE and an equally impressive 2-0 win at Marseille.

October proved to be a profitable month in the Premiership with 4 wins out of 4, including a 2-1 defeat of leaders Leeds that allowed Derby to take over at the top of the table. Middlesbrough, Everton and Arsenal also found themselves on the losing side as Calhoun’s team began to put together a good rum of form and Brig was once again lauded as the Manager of the Month. With Kalogeras out with a long-term injury, Wayne Bridge was prised away from Southampton for a £5M fee, all of which was recouped a few weeks later when Kalle Sone went to Arsenal for £7.5M. The Cameroon international had been becoming a disruptive influence in the team, with several of his teammates unhappy and Brig was quite prepared to let him go. The Derby second-string were also in action, gaining wins in the Champions League over both Marseille and Barcelona and coming from behind to complete an impressive 5-1 defeat of Newcastle in the League Cup.

Calhoun’s team went through November unbeaten in the league with wins over Huddersfield and Portsmouth and draws against Charlton, Blackburn and Man United. They remained top of the table, four points clear of a resurgent Leeds United. They completed the first phase of group games in the Champions League with a 2-0 win at BATE but in the second phase they lost their opening game 3-0 at home to Feyenoord. Still playing effectively a second-string for the non-league games they also progressed further in the League Cup with a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.

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English Premier Division - Monday 1st December 2008

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st DERBY 15 5 2 0 12 3 6 1 1 20 8 36

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2nd Leeds 16 7 1 0 18 4 3 1 4 10 11 32

3rd Man Utd 14 4 2 0 9 3 5 2 1 15 7 31

4th Liverpool 15 6 2 0 16 1 3 1 3 6 6 30

5th Arsenal 15 5 2 1 17 8 3 2 2 12 9 28</pre>

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Season 8 (2008/2009) Continued

As November moved into December Calhoun had to deal with a growing injury list and by the middle of the month there were no less than eight players in the treatment room, including Cech, Finnan, Reid and Skalidis. But none of this seemed to affect the team as they reeled off five straight victories in the league. This run included a crucial 3-0 win at home to defending champions Liverpool, a game that Brig looked back on as a key moment of the season. He felt that as a result his players started to genuinely believe his message that they could compete with the best in the country and were genuine title challengers. With a six-point lead over Leeds and holding a game in hand, Derby were certainly in a strong position in the Premiership at the turn of the year. They also had further success in the League Cup – a 3-0 defeat of Luton taking them to the Semi Finals. Their only blip was a second consecutive defeat in the Champions League as they lost 2-0 at Dormund. Brig received the December Manager of the Month award in recognition of his team’s performance.

In early January Derby keeper Chris Kirkland accepted a contract offer from Middlesbrough and left the club. Brig responded swiftly, bringing in the experienced Andy Marshall from Portsmouth to provide cover. Their first action of the month was in the FA Cup and with Cech still out, the new goalie went straight into the team for the 2-0 win at West Ham. When league action recommenced most of the team’s key players were back from injury. Skalidis celebrated by scoring all three goals in the defeat of Aston Villa and then getting the only goal of the game at Middlesbrough and again at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Calhoun was delighted with his team’s form – not only were they unbeaten in 20 league matches but they had just completed a run of 10 consecutive clean sheets in all competitions. They weren’t always blowing the opposition away but Brig felt that the team’s ability to grind out wins was the sign of potential title winners. Another hat trick for Skalidis on the 3-1 defeat of Cardiff took the Greek striker to 28 goals in 20 games, an extraordinary strike rate. By coincidence, they faced the same opponents in the FA Cup, Skalidis on target again with two goals in the 3-0 win. In their last game of the month they were defeated 1-0 at Tottenham in the first leg of the League Cup Semi Final, their first defeat since early December.

It was no great surprise when both Calhoun and Skalidis featured in the monthly rewards after an outstanding January. With his team now 12 points clear at the top of the table, Brig felt that he had a great chance of achieving his ambition of lifting the Premiership title. But faint doubts began to surface when their first two games in February both ended in draws. Then in the showdown at nearest rivals Leeds things looked grim when Kevin Nolan was red-carded and Derby fell behind from the penalty spot. But Calhoun’s team showed great character to fight back and the ten-men powered to a magnificent 3-1 win. The manager’s outburst about the standard of refereeing earned him a £26,000 fine and a two-match touchline ban. With all of their cup commitments, the team played just one further league game that month and a 2-1 defeat at home to Everton ended their 25-game unbeaten run in the league. With Nolan suspended, Yakubu was deputising and when he received his second yellow card it was a turning point in the match. Brig’s views on the standard of refereeing, aired freely after the game, landed him with a further fin and extended his ban. At around this time Brig boosted his midfield with the acquisition of Paraguayan international Diego Gavilan from Walsall for £1M. The second string saw a fair amount of action too and they put in some decent performances. They beat the mighty Inter 1-0 at home in the Champions League and suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture. They then drew 2-2 at Man United in the FA Cup before triumphing 2-0 in the replay. They also found time to overturn the one-goal deficit against Tottenham in the League Cup with a 2-0 win to reach the final. With their main challengers faltering, Calhoun’s side kept a decent lead in the Premiership, despite dropping points.

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English Premier Division - Sunday 1st March 2009

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st DERBY 28 11 3 1 30 7 10 2 1 26 9 68

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2nd Arsenal 28 11 3 1 29 13 7 2 4 22 16 59

3rd Liverpool 29 11 3 0 29 5 6 3 6 10 13 57

4th Leeds 29 12 2 1 31 9 5 3 6 17 16 56

5th Man Utd 28 8 5 1 19 5 7 4 3 27 18 54</pre>

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Thanks PM – as you’ll see we managed to hold them off.

Season 8 (2008/2009) Continued

March was a pivotal month in the history of Derby County Football Club – riding high in the Premiership they were also still active in three other competitions. They were already in the League Cup final and had reached the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup. Despite losing three of their four Champions League group games they still had an outside chance of progressing to the knockout stages. Up to that point Calhoun had given the league title his top priority, fielding many second choice players for the other games. But as the season approached its climax he made a change in policy and decided to put out his best available eleven for each game. With the possibility of a historic double, treble or even quadruple, the manager felt the hand of fate on his shoulder. His policy produced some interesting results. A 3-1 win at Feyenoord kept their Champions League hopes alive and then a gritty 1-0 defeat of Dortmund made them a reality as they finished as group runners-up and would face Barcelona in the Quarter Finals. A comfortable 3-0 win at QPR took Calhoun’s team into the FA Cup Semi Final. They then faced Arsenal twice in a week. In their League encounter they fell behind when former Derby player Kalle Sone scored but Agahowa found an equaliser and the 1-1 draw at least did not allow their nearest rivals to close the gap. Then came the League Cup Final with Skalidis scoring a brilliant hat trick to secure Derby their first domestic trophy.

A packed April fixture list saw Derby’s playing resources stretched to the limit as they continued their search for silverware. Four league matches were played and all four ended in victory. Skailidis continued to bang in the goals and by the end of the month he had bagged 47 in all competitions. When Calhoun was forced to rest his first choice them the ever-dependable Stephen McPhee stepped into the breach. The Scot was also in great form and had found the net 20 times in 25 appearances. It was also a momentous month in Europe as Derby made their way to the Semi Finals of the Champions League. They paved the way with a stunning 4-0 win in their home tie against Barcelona with Skalidis scoring twice. The return leg was not without incident as Derby conceded an early goal and also had Agahowa sent off after his second booking. But McPhee clamed the nerves with a goal just after half time and although the Spaniards went on to win 2-1 on the night, Brig’s boys went through comfortably on aggregate. They met Club Brugge in the Semi and once again performed brilliantly at home, winning 3-0 in their lat game of the month. On the same evening they were crowned Premier League champions after both Liverpool and Arsenal failed to win their midweek league fixtures so it was quite a night at Pride Park. Their final achievement was a 2-0 defeat of Portsmouth to book their place in the FA Cup Final against Sunderland. Once again Calhoun and Skalidis were both recognised in the monthly awards as the plaudits rolled in for a brilliant Derby side.

With two out of four competitions under their belt, Calhoun’s team faced a packed fixture list in May but the manager was comforted by the fact that the league title was already sewn up so he could afford to pace his players for the big cup games. Being forced to play all of their games in hand meant that Derby had a punishing schedule of four league matches in just seven days, a situation that Calhoun described as “bureaucratic nonsenseâ€. But nonetheless his team finished with three wins and a draw to set a new points total for the Premiership. The manager took the opportunity to blood some of his promising youngsters with good results. James Campbell, Jon Preston and Lee Andrews all did well, and at just 17 years of age the latter in particular looked like a real prospect for the future. They started the month with a trip to Brugge for the second leg of the Champions League Semi Final and a 1-0 win took them comfortably through to the final. In the FA Cup Final goals from Agahowa and Skalidis sealed an exciting 2-1 defeat of Sunderland to complete a magnificent domestic treble. The climax of the season was the Champions League Final against Inter and as so often happens in such critical games it wasn’t the most thrilling of matches. Brig was a little disappointed in his team’s performance as he felt that they froze to some extent and the Italians won a tight contest 1-0, denying the manager an unprecedented collection of trophies in a single season. England did have success in Europe however, with Chelsea taking the UEFA Cup with a 1-0 defeat of Milan.

Despite falling at the final hurdle, it was still a magnificent achievement by Calhoun and his team and the manager was rewarded with the Premiership Manager of the Year award. Anastasios Skalidis scored 53 goals in all competitions, was the Premiership’s leading scorer and was the Fans Player of the Year. Jeff Whitley was voted N. Ireland Player of the Year and he remained an able deputy for Kristian Ravneng. There were many successes on the pitch – Skalidis was of course outstanding but Stephen McPhee also made a huge contribution, scoring 24 goals from 29 starts. Bridge, Finnan, Ravneng, Nolan and Cech were all worthy of note as well and Brig felt that he had a very good squad of players at his disposal. Petr Cech was voted European Goalkeeper of the Year but amazingly Skalidis was overlooked on the awards front.

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English Premier Division - Friday 22nd May 2009

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C DERBY 38 14 4 1 36 8 15 3 1 40 13 94

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2nd Arsenal 38 12 6 1 34 17 11 3 5 32 22 78

3rd Man Utd 38 13 5 1 33 6 9 4 6 31 26 75

4th Liverpool 38 13 5 1 36 10 8 3 8 19 18 71

5th Leeds 38 13 3 3 36 15 8 4 7 24 22 70

6th Sunderland 38 15 2 2 45 11 5 4 10 22 31 66

7th Blackburn 38 14 2 3 37 16 5 5 9 22 30 64

8th Man City 38 12 5 2 22 9 5 5 9 17 20 61

9th Chelsea 38 11 3 5 36 19 6 4 9 21 31 58

10th Middlesbrough 38 10 6 3 34 18 3 5 11 16 34 50

11th Portsmouth 38 9 3 7 26 20 4 7 8 20 32 49

12th Aston Villa 38 9 5 5 33 22 3 7 9 18 28 48

13th Newcastle 38 7 7 5 23 21 4 6 9 11 25 46

14th Fulham 38 9 1 9 23 20 4 3 12 13 32 43

15th Everton 38 4 5 10 18 34 4 4 11 16 32 33

16th Huddersfield 38 4 4 11 18 30 5 2 12 17 40 33

17th Charlton 38 2 5 12 19 42 6 3 10 22 30 32

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18th R W.B.A. 38 6 6 7 23 22 0 6 13 15 34 30

19th R Sheff Wed 38 6 4 9 24 34 1 3 15 9 42 28

20th R Cardiff 38 5 3 11 16 24 2 3 14 13 30 27</pre>

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Season 9 (2009/2010)

There were a few changes to the Derby squad during the summer. Centre back Anestis Anastasiadis accepted a contract offer from Arsenal and left the club. In addition midfielder Steve Thomson was deemed surplus to requirements and he moved to Charlton for £1.3M. The final departure was Jeff Whitley after contract negotiations ground to a halt and he left to pursue other options. This was balanced by the arrival of the veteran Taribo West on a free transfer together with experienced Italian central defender Cesare Natali who joined from Atalanta for £875K. But the biggest acquisition was the arrival of Argentinean international Julio Arca who signed from Sunderland for a club-record £10.75M.

As the season got underway keeper Cech was absent, representing his country at the Confederations Cup and the experienced Andy Marshall took advantage with some good performances. New signing Arca was also unavailable after taking a knock in pre-season training. There were long-tern injury problems for Steve Finnan who suffered a broken ankle in their opening league match and Francis Jeffers who tore a groin muscle whilst playing for the reserves. Despite that they made a reasonable start to the season, beating Arsenal to win the Charity Shield before winning at Sunderland in the league opener. Then Skalidis scored a hat trick in the home game against the Gunners before Calhoun’s team suffered a poor 2-0 defeat at early league leaders Fulham.

September was a busy and highly successful month for the club with a 100% record in the six games that they played, during which they scored 15 goals and conceded only two. They won all three of their Champions League group games, beating Rapid Vienna, FC Zurich and Feyenoord and Skalidis scored hat tricks in two of the three games. They also won the three games that they played in the Premiership, ending the month on top of the table with both Calhoun and Skalidis featuring in the monthly awards. Despite this success on the pitch there was a growing tension between the manager and some of his players. There were a few in the dressing room that resented what they saw as his harsh methods of discipline, arguing that as responsible professionals they should be given more respect. Calhoun paid little heed to their complaints, taking the attitude that if they didn’t like playing for England’s most successful team then they could sod off and go elsewhere.

October was a relatively quiet month with Derby having two weekends off because of World Cup qualifiers and FA Cup games, although most of their first team squad were in action for their countries. But nonetheless they still played half a dozen games, with four of them squeezed into the final ten days of the month. Another flawless month on the pitch saw Calhoun’s team win all four of their league games to establish a 6-point lead over chasing Sunderland. They also secured their place in the second group stage of the Champions League with two further wins, Skalidis scoring all four goals in the game at home to Rapid Vienna. Having scored 23 goals in 16 games he was once again lauded as player of the month with his manager gaining the 31st award of his career so far.

In contract to his approach in the previous season when he often rested his key players between league matches, Calhoun made a conscious decision not to make such drastic changes in personnel this campaign. Having achieved his burning ambition of winning the Premiership he felt that he could afford to take a more balanced view this season and he introduced a policy of only changing the team around when forced to because of injuries, fatigue or loss of form. His approach did not seem to be reducing his team’s competitiveness as they went through November with just a single defeat, although the 1-0 loss at home to Liverpool did allow their nearest rivals to stay in touch in the league. Leeds, Tottenham and Chelsea were all defeated in the Premiership and Millwall were dumped out of the League Cup. They completed their first phase of Champions League games with a 4-1 win at FC Zurich to keep their 100% record in the group. They got off to a fantastic start in the next round of group matches with a superb 5-0 win at home to Milan. By this time they were playing without goal machine Skalidis who suffered a bad injury in the win over Leeds and would be out for at least two months. But Stephen McPhee stepped in, scoring twice against the Italians. Despite the success on the pitch there continued to be a deal of unrest amongst the players. Finnish midfielder Kristoffer Wekstrom, consigned to the reserves at the start of the season, made a £4.3M move to Rangers and Spanish international Gerard, a key figure in midfield, was placed on the transfer list at his own request.

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English Premier Division - Monday 30th November 2009

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st DERBY 14 6 0 1 15 3 6 0 1 12 3 36

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2nd Liverpool 12 4 1 0 11 3 4 1 2 6 5 26

3rd Fulham 13 6 0 1 14 6 2 1 3 5 6 25

4th Sunderland 13 4 2 1 9 6 3 2 1 8 7 25

5th Man Utd 12 4 1 1 11 6 3 1 2 7 4 23

6th Leeds 14 4 2 2 9 7 2 3 1 9 8 23</pre>

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Season 9 (2009/2010) Continued

The Derby bandwagon showed no signs of being derailed during December as they profited from a busy month in the league by winning all five of their Premiership matches. This included a terrific 5-1 demolition of Sunderland at the end of the month, a team that were their nearest title challengers at that point. They kept their fine European form intact with a very good 2-0 win at Real Madrid but made an early exit from the League Cup, losing 2-1 at Fulham after extra time. Spanish midfielder Gerard was snapped up by Valencia with £4M in compensation being paid, all of which and more went on the purchase of 27-year-old Scotsman Stephen Pearson from Motherwell. Now holding a commanding 12-point lead over Newcastle, Calhoun’s side were well on track to retain their Premiership title and yet all was not will within the club. The unrest amongst the players had transmitted itself to the boardroom and Chairman Tommy Nolan was seriously concerned about the situation.

January saw Calhoun’s team continue their march towards further trophies. They gained emphatic FA Cup wins over Notts County and Stoke, winning 5-0 and 4-0 respectively. They did suffer their 3rd league defeat of the season when they lost 2-1 at Everton and were held to a 1-1 draw at Fulham but their 15-point lead over Newcastle still looked pretty secure. But it seemed that the more success the team had on the pitch, the more the players resented their manager’s authoritarian approach. He certainly kept his players on a very short leash and had no time for what he saw as the media obsession with “imageâ€, refusing to allow his players to enter into any external sponsorship deals. They in turn felt that their manager should treat them with more respect and stop interfering in their off-field activities.

Derby continued to make progress in February and despite drawing two of their four league matches, they still maintained a healthy lead over the chasing pack. They moved smoothly into the FA Cup Quarter Finals with a 3-0 win at West Brom. In the Champions League they were held 2-2 at Club Brugge but recorded an important 1-0 win in the return fixture at home and required just one point from their remaining two group games to progress. But Calhoun’s relationship with some of his playing staff showed no signs of improving. Centre back Claudio Terzi was dropped to the reserves after his lacklustre approach in training. Forward Lucas Cornwall had a private meeting with the manager to complain about his lack of first team opportunities – this lead to a move to Walsall for a nominal fee. Reserve striker Mark Fox went public with his concerns and was immediately transfer listed – the phrase “rotting in the reserves†did not sit well with his manager. The signing of midfielder Scott Parker from Newcastle for £10M gave a clear signal to his squad – you may not be happy playing for Derby County but there are plenty of other players out there who would jump at the opportunity.

During March there were signs that Derby were beginning to falter slightly. They suffered a 1-0 defeat at Man United in the league and then lost both of their remaining Champions League games against Inter and Real Madrid. Fortunately other results in their group meant that they held on to second place and qualified for the Quarter Finals anyway. They recovered somewhat to bear QPR in the FA Cup Quarter Final and then had a decent win over Chelsea in the Premiership. Just before the close of the transfer window, the experienced former Liverpool man Jamie Carragher joined from Celtic to provide further cover at the back.

The slight drop in form of the previous month proved to be a temporary blip as Calhoun’s team stormed through April, retaining their Premiership title with three league wins, the title being clinched with a 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa. They also booked their place in the FA Cup Final when they beat Newcastle 3-1 in the Semi and progressed to the last four in the Champions League after a comfortable 4-2 aggregate defeat of Feyenoord. Calhoun’s team now stood just four games away from a possible treble and were widely recognised as one of the top outfits in Europe. But still there was disharmony in the squad. Goran Pandev was agitating for a move, citing his failure to settle in the area as the main factor. Midfielder Ishmail Yakuba had several run-ins with his manager and he was made available for transfer and moved to the reserves. Derby Chairman Tommy Nolan was becoming increasingly concerned about the friction between players and manager and his relationship with his manger was starting to deteriorate.

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Season 9 (2009/2010) Continued

It was perhaps just as well that the Premiership title had been secured because in May Derby’s league for collapsed. They lost to Portsmouth, Charlton and Man City and their only win came against Leeds. But in their defence they had to play nine games in the month, a consequence of their success but a situation that Calhoun described as “ a nonsense – I see no reason why we should be forced to play so many games at the end of a punishing seasonâ€. With one leg of the treble in the bag his team faced Blackburn in the FA Cup Final and ran out fairly comfortable 2-0 winners. Their Champions League Semi Final against FC Bayern produced one of the all-time classics. In the home leg they fell two goals behind to a rampant Bayern inside the first 30 minutes and Calhoun could see his dream of a treble vanishing before his eyes. But just before half time the visitors had their keeper red-carded when he brought down Marco Ferreira in the area. Skalidis converted the resulting penalty to put his side back in the game. The Greek scored again ten minutes after the restart and Julio Arca completed the recovery for a dramatic 3-2 win. The second leg would prove to be equally absorbing. Once again Bayern started brightly and by the break they were 2-0 ahead on the night and leading on aggregate. But Calhoun’s team kept coming forward and two goals in the last 15 minutes from Tobros and Agahowa tied the score and secured a 5-4 overall win.

The Champions League final against Barcelona was on a par with the Man United/Bayern match of 1999, such was the remarkable conclusion. Derby looked seriously out of sorts (Calhoun later blamed it on exhaustion after a mammoth season) and with 20 minutes remaining they faced a two-goal deficit. But Barca had reckoned without the Greek God Skalidis – the striker scored twice in the last minute of normal time to take the game into extra time. Sadly the Derby miracle did not quite materialise as Patrick Vieira scored a golden goal in the first period to win his team the trophy.

Despite falling at the final hurdle in such heartbreaking circumstances, it was still a wonderful season for Derby County Football Club and for Brig Calhoun. He had taken his team to the pinnacle of success and built a squad of players that were respected and coveted throughout Europe – and all this in less than 7 years in charge. On the playing front there had been some fantastic performances this season. Their strikers were peerless - Skalidis scored 46 goals in 36 starts, McPhee got 26 in 27. In midfield Parker was key after his arrival – Calhoun had been unable to register him for the Champions League but was sure that his team would have won if Parker had played. Bridge and Ravneng were outstanding wingbacks and Lee Andrews, just turned 18, could cover for either of them and looked like being even better. The squad was packed with internationals – ten of his players were off representing their countries in the 2010 World Cup.

But there were negatives – the attitude of some senior players was a big issue for Brig, as was what he saw as a lack of support from his Chairman. In tending to side with the players, Tommy Nolan alienated his manager in a way that was to have dire consequences for his club.

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English Premier Division - Wednesday 26th May 2010

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Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag Won Drn Lst For Ag Pts

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1st C DERBY 38 15 2 2 48 12 12 2 5 36 17 85

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2nd Liverpool 38 10 8 1 39 14 9 6 4 20 18 71

3rd Man Utd 38 14 3 2 31 12 8 2 9 23 22 71

4th Newcastle 38 15 1 3 34 17 5 9 5 20 19 70

5th Leeds 38 12 5 2 25 10 7 6 6 26 29 68

6th Sunderland 38 14 3 2 36 11 5 5 9 18 27 65

7th Arsenal 38 12 4 3 34 16 6 5 8 20 29 63

8th Man City 38 11 6 2 27 9 4 7 8 16 22 58

9th Fulham 38 12 3 4 36 22 4 5 10 13 24 56

10th Blackburn 38 9 7 3 18 8 2 8 9 20 28 48

11th Chelsea 38 6 8 5 15 17 6 2 11 27 37 46

12th Crystal Palace 38 6 7 6 24 34 3 10 6 18 19 44

13th Stoke 38 7 6 6 19 16 3 6 10 14 27 42

14th Tottenham 38 7 5 7 24 27 4 4 11 17 28 42

15th Middlesbrough 38 5 7 7 17 23 5 3 11 16 27 40

16th Portsmouth 38 5 10 4 20 20 2 7 10 20 37 38

17th Aston Villa 38 6 4 9 23 25 2 6 11 12 33 34

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18th R Everton 38 5 7 7 26 22 2 5 12 17 34 33

19th R Huddersfield 38 5 6 8 26 31 1 6 12 14 36 30

20th R Charlton 38 3 5 11 19 34 4 3 12 13 28 29</pre>

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Season 10 (2010/2011)

As the summer of 2010 progressed things were coming to a head between Calhoun and his Chairman. The Board were increasingly concerned about Brig’s determined effort to control his players. They saw Yakuba, Hughes and Pandev all sold when they refused to knuckle down to the manager’s regime. Alarm bells really started ringing when Steve Finnan, Marco Ferreira and Andy Marshall all refused to renew their contracts. In an acrimonious meeting with the Board at the end of June, Calhoun issued a “back me or sack me†ultimatum. When the Board refused to provide their unequivocal support Brig Calhoun shocked the world of football when he resigned as manager of Derby County.

The shock waves reverberated around the club – the supporters were stunned, the players delighted, the media astounded. The papers could not believe that Brig had walked away from a club that he had taken to the pinnacle of success – winners of two Premiership titles, two FA Cups, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup, as well as two consecutive appearances in the Champions League Final. The consensus was that he had could no longer handle life at the top level and had bowed to player pressure.

But Brig was not to be out of the game for very long. Even as he was preparing to take his family on a summer break he was contacted by Dick Knight, the Chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion. Knight had an intriguing proposition - having lost long-term manager Steve Coppell to Stockport, the Second Division outfit were in the middle of a search for a new manager and Brig was asked to take charge of the hunt. Furthermore Knight requested that he take an advisory role with the club to ease the new man into the club. Brig was intrigued by the offer and agreed to meet the Chairman. Brighton had slipped form the First Division in 2006 and had been struggling to get back there ever since, just missing out in the playoffs two seasons earlier. After spending a day at the club, meeting various staff members and undertaking a short review of the playing squad Brig made Knight an offer of his own. “Call off the manager search. I like what I’ve seen and I want to take over.†Stunned by the news, Knight was quick to agree and in July 2010 Brig Calhoun was instated as the new manager of Brighton.

It was a move that few inside or outside the game understood. But Brig’s reasons were simple – after the difficulties he had with the players at Derby he wanted to get back to basics, to work with raw players that he could develop and mould into his own image. And so the Calhoun era began for Brighton.

Brig inherited a 41-man playing roster, the club had money in the bank and there were transfer funds available. But he didn’t rush into making any changes – he wanted to see what he had at his disposal already before dipping into the transfer market. His first opportunity came during a pre-arranged pre-season tour of Italy. Dragging his family along, Calhoun treated the week as both an opportunity to assess his players and a way to give his wife and children a week in the sun.

At the end of the three-match mini-tour Calhoun was quite pleased with what he had seen. Playing lower-league opposition they had won two games and drawn the other but it wasn’t the results that were of interest. Brig saw signs that he could coax some decent performances out of his existing squad, especially after he had worked with them on their formation and tactics. The main weakness that he saw was a lack of firepower up front and his first priority would be to get some strikers on board. Before the start of the season he had agreed deals with the much-travelled Isaiah Rankin and the prolific St. Johnstone marksman Peter MacDonald, both on free transfers.

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