Many Derby County fans would have been disappointed with the exit of striker Rob Hulse. The well-travelled striker has won promotion twice in his career and has been a purchase for teams who were promoted without his services. Now at Championship table-toppers Queens Park Rangers, he will hope to make it three promotions and have a second crack at the Premier League.
Indeed, the first game of the season showed some promise for Derby, who so far under Nigel Clough’s reign have had to endure a transitional period with a massive squad overhaul in the past 20 months in order to create a more manageable wage bill.
Clough, who left Burton Albion after 10 years of service, now faces a new challenge: to revive the fortunes of Derby and once again turn them into Premier League contenders.
An opening-weekend win at Leeds (the opener, scored by former Elland Road favourite Rob Hulse, was his last goal and appearance for the club) would have given fans early hope. The combination of Paul Green, Kris Commons and Hulse was particularly impressive. The latter of course was a key focal point to this attack and, as many Football League defenders will be aware, is more than a mere battering ram.
However, since the opening weekend of the Championship Hulse has been injured and Derby have had to endure two defeats and a draw at home to QPR. Such has been the extent of the injury list at Pride Park that former Exeter defender Dean Moxey has been used as a makeshift striker in variations of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations.
Before discussing the importance of Rob Hulse’s departure to QPR, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. Hulse is now 30; although still more than capable at that age, he missed 16 games last season and has only played one so far in the current campaign. More crucial to the decision to sell Hulse was that the money on offer was too good to turn down for a striker with only nine months left on his contract, points highlighted by Derby executive chairman Tom Glick.
Hulse has been the top scorer for the Rams for the two previous seasons, chipping in with 28 league goals in his last three campaigns, and his departure will no doubt harm the Derby’s chances of promotion. In addition, Clough may have to re-think tactics; Dean Moxey cannot be relied upon for an entire season, and naturally as a defender he will not match Hulse’s prolific goal-scoring rate.
The departure of the 6ft 2in striker will not aid Derby’s aspirations this season, but the Midlands club are in no hurry.
While Derby are in the middle of a five-year plan to reach the Premier League, 30-year-old Hulse’s aspirations for top-flight football are more immediate; and under new manager Neil Warnock who would bet against it happening this year.
Written By Carl Noyce