Why was Philip Cocu Axed by Derby County?


Derby County’s dismal start to the EFL Championship season saw them prop up the table after 11 games. It has also cost head coach Philip Cocu his job at Pride Park and left an interim management team including former MLS star, Manchester United and England legend Wayne Rooney in charge of the squad.

According to the latest English Championship odds, Derby are third-favourites for relegation. That suggests the East Midlands outfit are up against it in their fight for survival, but how has it come to this?

Wayne Rooney” (CC BY-SA 2.0) featured image by All-Pro Reels

A player of Rooney’s stature being at the club commands respect, but Rams fans have had to endure a string of disappointments both before and since Cocu came in at Pride Park. Despite plenty of support in the transfer market, several managers have tried and failed to get Derby promoted to the Premier League.

wayne rooney

Four losses in their final five matches of the 2019-20 campaign laid rest to any hope of sneaking into the play-offs again. That end of season lottery hasn’t been a lucky one for County, apart from the Billy Davies team of 2007.

Since 2013-14, the Rams have been involved in four play-off campaigns but either lost in the semis or the Wembley final on every occasion. In the three seasons between they failed to make the top six, they simply ran out of steam during the regular season, finishing eighth, ninth and tenth.

Cocu’s permanent successor, whoever that might be, has some long-standing issues to address at Pride Park.

If the slide can’t be stopped, then Derby could follow in the undesirable footsteps of bitter local rivals Nottingham Forest, Sheffield’s two big clubs and Leeds United as the latest high-profile team to drop into the third tier of English football at some point.

Shaking up the squad over the summer seems to have ultimately backfired on Cocu. Releasing Scotland striker Chris Martin, who admittedly was in and out of favour with the previous bosses, and loaning forward Jack Marriott to fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday look like major errors.

Derby were the lowest scorers in the Championship, netting just five goals in their first 11 matches. Like fellow Dutch coaches, Cocu likes to have plenty of wide forward options but this came at the expense of central strikers.

While there were worse defences in the early weeks of the campaign, selling both of last season’s full-backs to Sheffield United as a job lot seemed strange. Both Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe were products of the Rams academy.

wayne rooney

Like departed forward Mason Bennett and midfielder Tom Huddlestone, they knew the club after coming through the ranks. For a coach like Cocu, who during his five years in charge of PSV Eindhoven graduated so many similar types into the first-team, to axe players that struck a chord with fans was perhaps the biggest mistake.

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