As Derby fans have recently voted on their all time XI but this team was dominated by players from the Championship winning teams of the 1970s, so I’ve decided that a look back at some of the best players to have graced Pride Park is in order. This list could go on and on….but probably not for too long! So here’s a reminder of some of the best players that have donned the black and white in the last decade:
Stefano Eranio – this Italian international midfielder was hugely popular at Derby and was recently inducted into the all time Derby XI. Eranio signed for the Rams on a free transfer from AC Milan in summer of 1997 as Derby began their new life at Pride Park. The Italian scored the first official goal at the new stadium against Barnsley in August. In his four years at the club Eranio made 108 appearances scoring 10 goals, in 2001 Eranio retired from playing and took up a role as AC Milan’s youth coach but has since left the club.
Paulo Wanchope – unpredictable is the only word that can describe the Costa Rican, he was signed by Jim Smith in April 1997. He will be forever remembered for scoring a wonder goal on his debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a goal that has since been voted the best Derby goal ever in a Radio Derby poll. He scored 23 goals in his 73 appearances for the Rams in his two seasons at the club. At times he was lazy and didn’t work for the team but as soon as the ball fell at his feet he turned into a world beater and caused problems for some of the best defences in the country.
Georgi Kinkladze – a Manchester City legend who fell on tough times at Ajax and initially came to Derby on loan before signing permanently in April 2000. He wasn’t as nimble as in his previous period in England but once he regained his fitness he really fit back into his role as a midfield maestro. At the end of the 2003 Kinky was named player of the year for his influence in the Rams’ survival in the Championship. Kinkladze’s form for Derby was really up and down but for his moments of genius that inspired victories and comebacks he deserves to be in this list.
Steve Howard – an old fashioned centre forward who signed for Derby from Luton Town in July 2006 for £1 million. Howards arrival at Pride Park was the biggest monetary signing for 5 years and there was immediate pressure on him to succeed. Howard’s play made him a natural in the hurly burly world of the Championship and he was a huge fans favourite at the club. Howard is a big, strong striker who was good in the air and had good work ethic. He played for the Rams for two seasons, scoring 19 goals in his first season which was also the club’s promotion season to the Premiership. In the Premiership Howard struggled to adapt and only managed one goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Howard then moved to Leicester City where he is still playing.
Mart Poom – what a goalkeeper, the Estonian was an absolute unknown when he signed in April 1997. Like Paulo Wanchope he made his debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and he went on to become a household name and was one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the country. Poom played at Derby for six seasons, making 146 appearances and winning the player of the year award in the 1999/2000 season. Poom moved onto Sunderland, where he actually scored against Derby, before playing for Arsenal and Watford.
Tom Huddlestone – Huddlestone was Derby’s bright young hope in 2002 when he broke into the first team aged just 16, and he was regular starter at 17. The young midfielder was a great passer of the ball and added composure to the team despite his young age; he was also comfortable playing at centre half. With Derby in serious debt Huddlestone was sold by the board for a derisory sum to Tottenham. He has since become a regular in the Spurs side and has been touted as a potential England player for next summer’s World Cup.
Seth Johnson – an absolute pitbull of a midfielder who was signed by Derby in 1999 for £3million from Crewe. Johnson became an important part of the Derby midfield which fought to avoid relegation. He made 57 appearances in his spell at the club before making a £7.5million move to Leeds in 2001, a injury plagued career at Elland Road saw the midfielder released by Leeds in 2005 when he returned to Derby for his second spell. He brought his tough tackling attitude back to the midfield and was an important part of the promotion winning side of 2007. Seth Johnson will always be fondly remembered at Derby as a player who game 100% for the club and the fans regularly sang “there’s only one Seth Johnson” to one of their favourites. Johnson’s knee injuries meant that in 2007 he was released by the club and he has since retired.
Rob Hulse – Derby’s current player of the year and an integral part of Nigel Clough’s rebuilding plans, the big striker was signed from Sheffield United in July 2008 for £1.75million and has scored 21 goals in 64 appearances for the club. During last summer Hulse was subject to a £4.5million bid from Middlesbrough but he opted to remain at Derby and help the club get back to the Premiership.
Paul Peschisolido – a Canadian centre forward who joined Derby from Sheffield United in 2004. Pesch wasn’t the greatest goalscorer for Derby, he scored 20 goal in 90 appearances, but he was the scorer of important goals. He had a fantastic work-rate, good pace and great vision. Pesch will always be fondly remembered at Derby for scoring the “coffee cup” goal against Notts Forest in March 2004. Peschisolido was released by Derby following their promotion to the Premiership in 2007 and is now manager of Burton Albion.
Leon Osman – by far and away the best loan signing we’ve ever had at Derby, Osman almost single handily kept Derby in the Championship in the 2003/04 season. A young midfielder at the time, he brought flair and skill to the midfield and alongside his great work rate he made a huge impact on the club and its fans despite only playing for the club for four months. Osman has gone on to become a regular first team player for Everton and is now their captain.
Inigo Idiakez – the Spanish playmaker signed for Derby in 2004 on a free transfer from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano. Idiakez was a talented playmaker who inspired the Rams in his first season as they finished fourth in the league but missed out on promotion losing in the play off semi final against Preston. Idiakez was a free kick specialist and regularly tested the goalkeeper from all angles. In his first season Idiakez was voted the clubs player of the year by the fans, he went on to play 89 games in two seasons scoring 22 goals. Idiakez moved onto Southampton and played against Derby in the play-off semi final in 2007, ironically it was Idiakez who missed the crucial penalty to book Derby’s place in the play off final.
Francesco Baiano – after Jim Smith unsuccessfully tried to sign Roberto Baggio in 1997 it was Baiano who he signed to provide the creative streak in his side. Ciccio, as he was known, was a £650k signing from Fiorentina in Serie A. He was a diminutive striker who settled in well alongside Paulo Wanchope and formed an almost telepathic link with Stefano Eranio. Baiano played for the Rams for two seasons which saw the club finish 8th and 9th, their most successful in recent times, he played 75 games for the Rams scoring 19 goals. He will be fondly remembered at the club for his work rate and flair that made Derby a great team to watch.
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