Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has refused to use Derby County’s current financial situation as an excuse for their 2-1 loss to Wayne Rooney’s side yesterday afternoon, as he spoke to the Potters’ media team.
Breaking reports on Friday night revealed the East Midlands side were set to go into administration after a turbulent summer at Pride Park, with multiple charges against them by the EFL placing them under an embargo during the previous transfer window and limiting them to bringing just five players in, potentially not enough to save them from relegation if they receive a points deduction.
The Rams still have four charges to their name with three accounts-related offences listed on the EFL’s embargo service, although the potentially most concerning offence is their default in payments to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, potentially previously foreshadowing their now-imminent administration.
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With this news breaking less than 24 hours before their fixture against Stoke City at Pride Park and the club in a perilous position, it was inevitably an emotional afternoon for the Rams who scored a quickfire double in the first half to secure the three points, despite Tom Ince scoring a consolation for the visitors in the second 45.
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However, the Staffordshire outfit’s manager Michael O’Neill brushed off claims that Derby’s off-the-field had any role in their downfall this weekend, saying: “I don’t think the atmosphere around the game had an effect.
“It was simply young players making mistakes which happens.
“Six or seven of the starting eleven are still in the early phase of their careers, 22 or 23, and for some of them it’s only their second season at this level. Basically, we just made mistakes at key moments in the game.”
Perhaps the atmosphere and the emotion surrounding this tie proved to be more advantageous to Derby County than disadvantageous to Stoke City, but it would be hard to see that not having any sort of impact on the game.
Derby County have started the season in a respectable fashion, so this victory against a high-flying Stoke City side wasn’t the upset of the season, but it was still a tall order for the Rams against the Potters who look like a new team this season.
In the end, three minutes in the game proved to be detrimental for Stoke, but the young players will benefit from this experience and after waiting patiently to get to this point, O’Neill will be keen to have these mistakes now instead of further down the line in their long-term project to get back to the top flight.
They may have had an extremely productive summer, and their recruitment team should be commended for that achievement, but there are plenty of younger players in their squad who will need extra time to adapt and as they already know, getting back to the Premier League in the short term after being relegated is harder than it seems.
Patience will be key. The likes of Josef Bursik and Josh Tymon will only get better with more experience and could lead the Potters to success in the next couple of years – but again – patience is a virtue and it will be rewarded if they carry on down this route.