Vastly experienced as a defensive midfielder, Shaun Derry enjoyed a solid Football League career over a twenty-year period. Derry was given his professional debut for hometown club Notts County at the age of 18 on 12 March 1996, where his manager was none other than Colin Murphy, assisted by Steve Thompson. There were no fewer than eight former and future Imps in the County squad that season too – Devon White, Phil Turner, Gary Strodder, Ian Baraclough, Tony Battersby, Gary Jones, Mike Pollitt and John Burridge – and Derry ended his first season with a Wembley play-off final defeat to Bradford (whose second goal was scored by a certain Mark Stallard). City fans may remember Derry starring for County in the 1997-98 promotion season before a huge £700,000 fee prised him away to Sheffield United. From that point on, the majority of his career was spent in the second tier, totalling 496 appearances at Championship and Premier League level with Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, QPR and Millwall. He also has the unusual distinction of not only starting and ending his playing career at Notts County, but also beginning his managerial career there, which he did in November 2013.
Succeeding outgoing manager Chris Kiwomya with the side sitting 24th in League One, Derry certainly had a challenging start. There was to be no quick fix, with County winning just six of his first twenty-two games; County were still in last place, 7 points adrift of safety with nine games remaining. But a great run of six wins from the next eight games took them out of the relegation zone for the first time, and a draw at Oldham on the final day was enough to relegate Tranmere in their place. County had escaped against the odds, Derry received a new two-year contract, and chairman Ray Trew forecast a better season ahead.
Trew was almost right. County got off to a great start the following season, a 1-0 win at Scunthorpe leaving them in third place at the end of October. Out of the blue, a terrible run of just four wins and fifteen defeats from their next twenty-three games left County in 20th place, and on 23 March 2015 Mr Trew decided it was time for a new face at Meadow Lane.
Derry resurfaced six months later, replacing Richard Money at mid-table League Two side Cambridge. Seen by some as a bit of a gamble, the intention was to appoint a younger manager with new ideas, rather than an older journeyman. Cambridge lost their first two games under Derry to leave them 18th in the table, but a run of five wins and a draw from their next six games took them to within a point of the play-off zone. Form was inconsistent after that, but a run of eight games unbeaten saw them finish the 2015-16 season 9th, just 7 points short of a play-off spot.
Big things were expected at the start of 2016-17 after that fine end of season run, but the Us failed to win any of their first eight games. Then a run of ten wins from fourteen games carried them into the play-off zone, where they hovered for much of the season. Defeat at Wycombe on the final day left Cambridge a win short of a play-off spot and consigned them to another season in League Two.
Inconsistency has been a hallmark of Shaun Derry teams to date: a cycle of wins followed by a poor run followed by wins again, perhaps partially due to the effect of injuries on relatively small squads. Derry will go into the new season with over 150 league and cup matches to his name. No longer a rookie manager, 2017-18 could be a pivotal season for him: a sustained play-off challenge will be expected after nearly two years in the job, and his stock will rise as a result; however, his contract expires next summer – another unsuccessful season could see him back on football’s job market once more.
P = Promoted; R = Relegated; SF = Lost in play-off semi-final; F = Lost in play-off final; PO = Won play-off final; D = Demoted.
Figures are league games only; cup matches and play-offs are not included.
League position shown is either the position at the end of the season or the position at the time of departure.
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? Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) May 28, 2017