Sport

Derby’s dismal 2007-08 season had me online posing as Rams fans praising my play, reveals Robbie Savage

Relegated before the end of March. Just 11 points all ­season — four of them at Newcastle’s expense. A record run of 32 games without a win. And a goal difference of minus-69.

Derby County ’s class of 2008 was the worst team in Premier League history.

They were so bad that they managed to concede six goals in consecutive home games against Aston Villa and Arsenal.

They were so bad that midfielder Robbie Savage, who ­arrived in the January transfer ­window but endured the worst spell of his career, made up aliases on fans’ forums and praised his own performances to try to lift his approval rating among the ­suffering masses at Pride Park.

And they were so bad that ­manager Paul Jewell sided with the supporters who turned on the players after a 4-0 defeat at home to Reading in the final game.

Our Robbie arrived in the January and played 17 games — Derby lost 14 of them….

…and drew the rest, as their relegation was confirmed in the MARCH

“No passion for the shirt, no desire, no willingness to run… whatever you need to make a good team, this group of players haven’t got it,” said Jewell, who admitted the Rams’ whole season had been an “embarrassment.”

Jewell had arrived in late November, with Derby already rock-bottom – just six points from 14 games – and needing more snookers than Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible.

Unbelievably, it got even worse under Jewell, but in truth the warning signs had been trailed, in plumes of smoke across the sky, on the day Derby were promoted in the play-offs 12 months earlier.

Instead of celebrating the Rams’ backs-to-the-wall win against West Brom at Wembley, Billy Davies – a manager who could start an argument with the speaking clock – was already spoiling for a fight with the board over the budget required to finance Premier League survival.

Derby were already bottom when Jewell arrived but they got worse under him

Sure enough, Peter Gadsby would be replaced by Adam Pearson as chairman before the end of October, but musical chairs in the boardroom did nothing for the club’s fortunes on the pitch.

Now-Mirror columnist Savage , who was appointed ­captain when Matt Oakley jumped ship and went to Leicester, was soon dragged down by the negativity. He arrived for training in a £160,000 Mercedes, but Derby were as doomed as an old banger stranded on the hard shoulder and billowing steam under the bonnet.

The Rams’ acceleration towards the cliff-edge was so spectacular that even Savage – whose energy was always beyond reproach – became riddled with self-doubt.

He said: “I was so insecure to the point that, after I signed for Derby and I was having a shocker, I used to go on message boards and ­chatrooms, make up a name and say ‘Savage played well today, didn’t he?’ to try to influence ­opinion among the supporters.

“But we were so poor that ­season you would go into some games knowing you weren’t going to get anything out of them.

September 17, 2007 — Derby 1-0 Newcastle, the Rams’ only league win all season

“The body language of players was terrible. You’d look around the dressing room at your mates and think ‘He’s not going to help me out today.’ I became an absolute shell of myself.

“It was awful to be told, week in and week out, that you were awful and the worst team ever to play in the Premier League.

“I suffered, and the following season I was frozen out. Sent to train with the kids at 34 years of age. I couldn’t understand what the hell was happening to me. That was easily the worst period of my career, the lowest of the low.”

When the 2-2 draw with fellow strugglers Fulham on March 29 put Derby out of their misery, it felt like an act of mercy.

The Rams have not returned to the top flight since — although Steve McClaren’s feat of being top of the Championship in February and missing out on the play-offs altogether in 2015 was a monument to silk purses and sow’s ears.


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