Steve Sharman looks at Derby County’s disastrous 2007/08 Premier League season.
There is not much you can do as a Derby fan when opposition fans inevitably roll out and repeat the ‘worst team in history’ chant. After all, we do hold the unenviable record for the lowest ever points total in a Premier League season.
After Stephen Pearson scored the decisive goal that sealed a Wembley victory over West Brom and fired the Rams to the top-flight, our big money signings made in the truncated pre-season were Robert Earnshaw and Claude Davis, setting the tone for a year of soul-destroying disappointment.
Surprisingly, the season could not have started much better. Matt Oakley gave the Rams the lead after just five minutes at home to Pompey on the opening day of the season. The joy was short-lived and it took a late Andy Todd equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw.
Things quickly went downhill from there.
The opening day point was swiftly followed by defeats at Manchester City (0-1), Tottenham (0-4) and Liverpool (0-6), a run of away defeats punctuated by a 1-5 reverse at home to Birmingham. One point and a goal difference of -15 after five games did not bode well.
When Kenny Miller smashed one into the top corner from 25 yards to give us our first three points of the season in a 1-0 home win over Newcastle, optimistic fans hoped we’d turned a corner and found our feet.
It was the falsest of dawns.
Late October to mid-December saw a run a seven straight defeats, our worst run of the season. The ever-prickly Billy Davies departed and was replaced by Paul Jewell. The former Wigan manager was unable to reverse our sorry form, picking up just five points in the remaining 24 games.
The football was truly abysmal.
It isn’t even the drubbings at the hands of the big clubs that stick in the mind from that season. It’s the humiliations at the hands of those we might consider rivals; home thrashings by West Ham (0-5) and relegation-mates Reading (0-4).
As a former season ticket holder exiled as a poor student in the South-East of England, I didn’t get to many games that season. My first wasn’t until April 12 at home to Aston Villa. On the train from London to Derby, I convinced myself that today was the day, that three points were there for the taking. Aston Villa scored six without reply.
I was sitting directly behind Stiliyan Petrov as he smashed one in from the halfway line following Roy Carroll’s pathetic attempt at a clearance. This was a team, a club, on its knees.
Alongside lowest number of points (11) we also set the record for fewest goals (20), fewest victories (one), longest winless run (32 games and counting), most defeats (29), and earliest relegation (29th March).
There were also some less obvious statistics, such as Emmanuel Adebayor’s hat tricks at the Emirates and Pride Park remaining the only time a player has scored hat-tricks in the home and away fixture against the same club, in the same season.
It was brutal.
Remarkably, despite losing by four goals or more nine times and finishing the season with a goal difference of -69, we didn’t suffer the heaviest defeat; that ignominy fell to Manchester City, who were thrashed 8-1 at Middlesbrough on the final day of the season.
The abject humiliation, the season that nightmares are made of left an indelible mark on the psyche of almost all Derby fans. It’s why any talk of promotion, and even last year’s trip to Wembley in the play-offs are often tempered with an unspoken trepidation.
I’ll be delighted If we ever get promoted but more than a little nervous until we pass that low benchmark that I fear may never, ever be beaten.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevesharman81