With the Republic of Ireland finally securing a place in the European Championship’s in France next year, I wanted to pay tribute to two of Derby’s outstanding players so far this season; Richard Keogh and Cyrus Christie.
Keogh came to the club at the start of the 2012/13 season and quickly became a fixture at the centre of the Rams’ defence. He was immediately given the captain’s armband and won all three of the club’s Player of the Year awards in his first season, as well as gaining his first full international cap for the Republic of Ireland. The next two seasons were much the same and, in 2014, he led the team out at Wembley for the play-off final. It was a bad day for the captain though, as his last minute error gave QPR an undeserved victory.
All eyes were on Steve McClaren’s men the following season to see if they would be suffering from a play-off hangover. As it turned out, one of the most notable players struggling for form last season was Keogh. Was this a direct cause of the manner in which the Rams lost to QPR? Or was it just coincidence? We will never know.
Derby’s captain was under increasing pressure from portions of the local media and also from a minority of the fans, both from the stands and also on social media. He was low on confidence and never had a consistent centre-half partner from which to build a relationship with. The shambolic way in which the season fell apart with some awful defending couldn’t have helped the Irish international either, but the whole of the back five looked like fish out of water.
When the new head coach came in this summer and all the new signings started to arrive, the general consensus was that Keogh would be one of the players to make way in a new-look team. Pre-season didn’t appear that great for Derby’s number 6 and it was soon apparent that he was not going to be our captain in the coming campaign. However, it appears as though this elevation of captaincy was a fantastic decision all round.
This season, it has been Keogh and Shackell that have been given the centre-half berths, and with 17 games gone, Derby lie fourth in the league with the third best defence in the country. Richard Keogh is back to his best, if not better than before, and there are three reasons for this.
Firstly, this season he has a quality centre-half next to him and they have forged a formidable partnership together. Secondly, a lot of praise must go to Paul Clement for sticking with him and giving a new lease of life. Most importantly, a huge amount of credit has to go to Keogh himself. A lot of players would have buckled under the pressure last season and have been ready to move on to a new challenge, but Keogh has been the consummate professional and has won the fans back over. He also was a big part of the Republic’s march into next year’s European Championships.
Cyrus Christie came to the Rams at the start of last season as a very promising young full-back. During one of his first pre-season game’s against Burton Albion he impressed with his direct running and speed. Indeed, that is how he started last season where the Rams were getting a lot of success down that right-hand side. However, Christmas came and his form started to dip to the point where it appeared as though Cyrus had lost his sharpness and all confidence in his game, and it was painfully there for all to see. Again, like with Keogh, many thought he would just be a squad player with the inclusion of Chris Baird to the squad for this season.
Getting his place back in the team seemed all too easy following an early season re-shuffle and Christie is now undoubtedly playing the best football of his career. All credit to Clement again, Cyrus now is also now a regular in the Republic of Ireland squad and recently scored his first international goal.
Long may they continue their excellent form for both club and country. I for one am looking forward to seeing them next year at the Euro’s, along with Jeff Hendrick. In my eyes, they’ve all earnt the right to be there.