Darren Wassall was brought in to steady the ship at Derby, but he has done more than that and now the ship is on course for the promised land of the Premier League.
Wassall was something of a surprise choice to replace Paul Clement at the Derby helm, but is quickly earning himself a reputation as one of the brightest young managers in the country.
There was not universal appreciation of Derby’s decision to appoint him in February due to his lack of managerial experience, but Wassall is quickly winning over any doubters with his man-management skills and his attractive style of football.
Wassall stepped up from his role as academy director to become head coach until the end of the season just when it looked like Derby’s season was imploding. He deserves huge praise for being able to go into a dressing room full of big names and big characters, get the players onside in such a short space of time, while he has also shown he can handle the pressure.
Wassall, who has been at Derby for seven years, has always been highly-rated at the iPro Stadium for the work he has done at the club’s academy helping develop the likes Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes and he has seamlessly taken the step up to taking charge of first-team affairs.
The 47-year-old was tasked with stabilising the club and ensuring pre-season promotion favourites Derby made the play-offs and Wassall has delivered what was expected of him.
In his 16 games in charge to date after Clement paid the price for a seven-match winless run, Derby have won eight and drawn three to earn them 27 points and secure them fifth spot and that sought-after play-off spot.
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) May 12, 2016
Wassall’s work and impact with the first-team has impressed the wily old fox of Harry Redknapp who was brought into Derby in an advisory role in March with the former West Ham and Portsmouth boss tipping Wasall for big things in the future.
Wassall has quickly restored harmony in the dressing room and performances in his short tenure have illustrated the spirit among the players is strong.
Wassall now faces up to the nerve-wracking experience of two play-off semi-finals against Hull City and experienced campaigner Steve Bruce, but seeing Wassall’s considered approach in his three-month tenure you would expect him to take all in his stride.
Derby have done the double over Hull City this season, including a 4-0 win at the iPro Stadium last month and Walsall will hoping for a repeat of that display in what was one of Derby’s best performances of the campaign.
Derby are just three wins away from ending their eight-year exile from the Premier League and in what is his first managerial role should Wassall achieve the goal of promotion to the Premier League he will only add to the growing reputation he is earning himself as one the brightest and innovative young managers out there.
Wassall’s appointment was a gamble by owner Mel Morris following the departure of Clement, but the gamble will pay-off to the tune of £170million if the former Derby defender can lead them back to the Premier League.