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Remembering “Mr Derby County”


Lionel Pickering

Lionel Pickering was born on 4th December 1932 in Derby; he was a Derby County fan from an early age and was one of the lucky ones who was able to go on and to get the top job at the club he loved.

Before he became a majority shareholder in 1991 Lionel was actually banned from attending matches at the Baseball Ground by Brian Clough and then Robert Maxwell! Clough took issue with comments in Pickering’s publication the Derby Trader and Maxwell didn’t like Pickering trying to oust him as chairman.

However after Maxwell’s death Pickering used his self-made millions to invest £13 million to become the majority shareholder at the club before becoming chairman in 1994. Pickering’s cash injection enabled Derby to sign players such as Mark Pembridge, Craig Short and Paul Kitson. The spending spree didn’t have the immediate impact on the club’s fortunes that everyone hoped, they suffered defeats in the 1992 play-off semi final and in the 1994 play off final.

It was Pickering’s controversial decision to appoint experienced manager Jim Smith in 1995 that finally produced the result every one had dreamed of, the “bald eagle” guided the club to the Premier League in his first season as manager. Promotion was secured at home against Crystal Palace and when fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle they sung Pickering’s name in recognition of the work he had done for their club.

Lionel Pickering celebrates promotion against Crystal Palace

Lionel Pickering celebrates promotion against Crystal Palace

Derby bucked the trend and survived in the Premier League mainly thanks to Pickering’s money, and during 1995 Pickering put Derby at the  forefront of English football by funding the club’s move to a new state of the art stadium. Pride Park was the jewel in Pickering’s crown, he knew the potential of his club and wasn’t afraid to push forward to improve things for the club. The stadium is renowned to all those linked to the club as Lionel Pickering’s legacy to Derby County.
After Derby’s move to Pride Park and further investment from Pickering the fans saw some of the best football at Derby since the days of Brian Clough. Pickering had done what he set out to do; in 1991 he said that he had opted to buy Derby to “put back some of the happiness Derby County had brought to the area in the Clough days” and less than a decade later he had succeeded.

The first few years of the millennium saw Derby begin struggle, and although Pickering continued to fund signings it couldn’t stop the club being relegated in 2002. A year later with the club £30million in debt and close to liquidation Pickering was forced to sell his majority share for just £3 to keep the club alive.

Pride Park

Pride Park

Three years after leaving the club Lionel Pickering became ill and in September 2006 he lost his battle with cancer. A week later everyone involved with Derby County showed how much Pickering meant to them with a minute’s applause at their next home game.

More work has gone on to honour him since his death; a new entrance at Pride Park was built using bricks from the Baseball Ground and named “the Lionel Pickering entrance” and the first home game of the club’s 125th in existence was renamed “Lionel Pickering Day” in memory of the man who rebuilt the club.

Lionel Pickering was a man of the people who invested his own money to see the club he loved prosper. He will forever be remembered at the club as the man who revived Derby County.

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