Ollie Wright is worried that Derby will soon have to make do without star performer Kris Commons.
Kris to be missed?
With their recent terrific run of form now nothing but a fading memory, Derby are stuck on 30 points - a tally which looks less impressive as the weeks go by and has finally been equalled by Nottingham Forest, who are grinding their way inexorably towards the top six.
With a trip down Brian Clough Way coming just after Christmas, the Rams must end their current run of defeats on Boxing Day, before what should be another compelling East Midlands Derby.
There have been legitimate complaints or excuses in each of the last four defeats - Burnley should have had a man sent off for a thuggish elbow into Shaun Barker's throat, Kris Commons was denied a blatant penalty against Norwich City, David James should certainly have been sent off for taking out Commons at Bristol City and Reading keeper Adam Federici was inspired form on Saturday. But the fact remains that we have conceded two goals in each game and leaking goals, many of them directly from our own mistakes, at that rate means you'll inevitably lose games.
A clean sheet on Boxing Day against Doncaster Rovers would be extremely welcome, especially as we prepare to face a miserly Forest side on the 29th.
Kris Commons scored again against Reading, his 12th league goal of the campaign. The uncertainty over Commons' contract situation grows by the day, as the attacker winds down his contract whilst waiting to see if he can get a better offer.
According to Nigel Clough, Commons has pledged not to sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere in January, but is waiting until the summer to decide on his long-term future. If he does leave, then Derby, as far as the manager is concerned, would be losing a player they would struggle to replace, even for £3,000,000.
Commons has scored more goals this season than the three next highest Rams scorers - Alberto Bueno, Tomasz Cywka and Luke Moore - combined. His form has doubtless attracted plenty of clubs and he has been consistently fit for the first time since the 2008/9 season. Clough has talked about putting a package together for Commons by bringing in resources from other areas of the club, so it rather sounds like his wage demands have escalated considerably.
Possibly, releasing Robbie Savage could free up space on the wage bill to offer the Scotland international more competitive terms, but if he bangs in another 12 goals before the end of the season and Derby aren't promoted, it might well be that another club takes matters out of our hands.
It would be interesting to see how Commons coped if a top flight club did sign him. He's already 27, not tall, not particularly fast, certainly not athletic enough to be a top, top Premier League player and his set pieces are variable; but still, his creative spark must have turned a fair few heads.
Glasgow Rangers have been mentioned as a possible destination and if Commons is serious about advancing his claims to become a regular in the Scotland team, a move north would make sense. Commons would certainly be a star in the SPL and signing for Rangers would give him the chance to play in Europe, a platform which Derby will not be able to offer him any time soon.
But Derby County is on the right track and their current dip in form is a red herring, as was the startling burst of victories that immediately preceded it. Ninth in the table is fine and probably better than I hoped we were capable of, at this stage.
We're well worth a shout for a good FA Cup run this year, but we're not quite genuine promotion contenders yet and there might well be a club who are a bit further on, who could offer Commons more money, or the opportunity to play at a higher level. If he that's the case, fine, although we'll be much the poorer for his loss and should certainly fight tooth and nail to retain his services.
Meanwhile, the vice-captain Shaun Barker has signed for two extra years, taking him through to the end of the 2013/14 season. Barker's show of loyalty and commitment to the club is very welcome and I'm sure Derby were keen to get some positive news out, to counter the very real possibility that we could lose our best player in summer.
Needless to say, Commons has been exceptional this season playing as an inside forward, or off the striker and without his dozen goals, we'd be much nearer the bottom of the table than the top six. I hope he stays, but I have the feeling that another club will come in with more money, possibly Rangers, or a relegated club with parachute payments to burn - a Wigan or a West Ham, say.
However, any club who do sign him would be advised to play him in a system that suits his attributes and certainly not on the left wing, where he tends to cut a forlorn, peripheral figure.
Anyway, I'd like to wish all Derby fans an exceedingly Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Three points on Boxing Day would certainly lift our spirits, but not as much as a win at the City Ground, which would cap off what has been a year containing enough positive signs to point to a brighter 2011. Here's to it!