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Nugent’s a nugget in front of goal

IT’S great to see David Nugent banging them in for Leicester. OK, so a lot of his goals have been penalties, but I still like to see a class act playing with confidence.

David is one of the THE best strikers in the Championship and he has been for many years. His enthusiasm and drive is second to none and, in my opinion, his finishing has really improved over the last few years.

He used to be known as a poacher but now he’s scoring all types of goals from all sorts of positions. I actually tried to sign him on at least three occasions, but I was never able to thrash out a deal with his club. But I’ve always kept an eye on him and it’s nice to see him firing on all cylinders.

THE JURY IS STILL OUT ON MCCLAREN’S ABILITY

THE sacking of Nigel Clough left a nasty taste in my mouth. I know they’d lost to their big rivals Forest, but I don’t think anyone thought the board would be so hasty.

Mind you, maybe hasty isn’t the right word. Nobody sacks a manager without having his replacement lined up first.

That’s why I had to laugh when I saw the statement released by the board on Saturday night, saying they wanted to ‘take the club to the next level’. I thought then that we’d see the next Derby manager within 24 hours and I wasn’t far wrong.

From personal experience, I’ve almost always known that discussions were happening with other managers when results weren’t going my way. It’s just a fact of life.

In certain cases, I’ve even known exactly who would replace me before I got the sack. I can’t say where, but I’m sure you can guess!

Nigel will have been distraught, first with the result and then to find he’s lost his job. It was a job and a club I know he loved, especially with the family connections to his dad, Brian.

You could understand if they were in the bottom three or four, but one bad run and a place in mid-table isn’t enough to warrant a dismissal.

But life moves on, and I’m sure Nigel will be stronger for the experience. As for Derby, well, we’ll see. Clubs always think the grass is greener on the other side, don’t they? And I can tell them that it isn’t.

One example that springs immediately to mind is Charlton, who made a similar statement when they forced Alan Curbishley out in 2006. Like Derby, they wanted to move to the ‘next level’. They were mid-table Premier League at the time. They ended up in League One.

I had my own experience at QPR. They got a new manager in, and it ended up costing them millions in signings and relegation.

I’ve always thought Nigel was an honest, hardworking manager. He’s very loyal. And just as he did at Burton, he leaves Derby in a far better state than he found them.

They’ve got a good nucleus of young players, bedded in at an early age. A lot of managers wouldn’t have given them an opportunity, because results are everything these days. You can’t risk your job on kids. But Nigel did and I’m sure Steve McClaren will reap the rewards over the next few years.

It’ll be interesting to see how much money the board give Steve, and what direction he takes them in.

On the plus side for Derby, McClaren is undoubtedly one of the best coaches around. Speaking to Harry Redknapp, I know he was very disappointed to see him leave QPR.

But  the jury is still out regarding his managerial credentials in the Championship. Having struggled to turn Forest round in 2011, it’ll be interesting to see if he can get things right down the road at Derby.

DYCHE FINDS RIGHT HABIT

SEAN Dyche has taken Burnley to the top this week. The question now is: Can they stay there?

For me, Leicester and QPR are still my favourites for the two automatic places, as they have been since the start of the season.

But Burnley will be there for a while. They’ve done brilliantly to replace Charlie Austin with two lads who are both scoring goals, Sam Vokes and Danny Ings.

They seemed to have a real good understanding those two. And they’re developing some nice habits, like grinding out results when they aren’t playing well.

The big thing for Sean is keeping everyone’s feet on the ground. Having met Sean on several occasions, he’s a level-headed lad, a really nice bloke and I’m sure he will. The play-offs is a very realistic aim.

DANGER OF BIG DROP

HAVING covered a bit of Conference football for BT this season, I’m not at all surprised to see Newport and Mansfield flying high.

Both were promoted to the Football League last year and it just goes to show the depth and quality of the newly-named Skrill Premier.

I’ve seen six of the teams so far this season – Kidderminster, Cambridge, Luton, Halifax, Grimsby and Aldershot – and they’ve been very good to say the least. The discipline and quality has been excellent and they’ve all played good football.

Squad-wise and quality-wise they could all more than hold their own in League Two, so it’s no wonder that clubs are scared stiff of going down. They should be, because the competition to get out of that division is fierce.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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