No doubt there were plenty of Derby Country supporters with their heads in their hands when Steve McClaren was unveiled as their new manager in late September.
You might remember McClaren as the inept buffoon who was unable to get England to qualify for Euro 2008. You might also remember his farcical reign in charge at Nottingham Forest in 2011—spending millions on new players, having a disastrous start and resigning after just 13 games.
But he's also done some pretty impressive things in his managerial career. He won the Dutch Eredivisie with limited resources at FC Twente. And let's not forget he almost won the UEFA cup with Middlesborough.
Just think about that for a second. At two different clubs, McClaren has delivered more success than anybody else before or since.
It seems as though you can categorize McClaren's tenures into two groups: “success beyond all expectations” or “unmitigated disaster of massive proportions.”
So how's he doing at Derby?
Well it's still very early, but the signs are looking positive. McClaren took over a club that had stagnated under previous boss Nigel Clough. The club wasn't really going anywhere, and I don't think it's too cynical to speculate Clough's four-year term in charge was based more on his sentimental value rather than his abilities as a manager at Championship level.
His first game was at home to Ipswich Town, though the actual managing of the team was left to academy boss Darren Wassall. At half-time, Derby were trailing 4-1. Immediately, social media was awash with jokes at McClaren's expense, even though he had nothing to do with the preparation for the game.
Derby are already 3-1 down at home to Ipswich. Ipswich fans singing to Steve McClaren, 'You're getting sacked in the morning..'— Coral (@Coral) October 1, 2013
Steve McClaren's Derby are 3-1 down at home to Ipswich. No word yet on whether Steve is speaking with a Derby accent: http://t.co/BJT7HoVpKr— Ladbrokes (@Ladbrokes) October 1, 2013
BREAKING: Derby County are delighted to announce the sacking of Steve McClaren, 11 minutes into his first game in charge #dcfc— Derby County (@dcfcoffcial) October 1, 2013
But McClaren took charge of the situation, and what an impact it had. He came into the dressing room and took over the team talk, inspiring Derby to fight back and claim an improbable 4-4 draw.
All last night's Championship goals including a thriller at Pride Park where half-time words from Steve McClaren inspired a Derby fightback— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 2, 2013
For anyone who doesn't know, Steve McClaren took the HT team talk and made the two changes which changed the game. Positive signs surely!^nb— Derby County (@derbycounty) October 1, 2013
Of the six games McClaren has been in charge of, Derby have won four and lost just one, a narrow 2-1 defeat away to promotion favourites QPR. They're beating difficult teams too. Watford and Leeds both have aspirations that surpass their own, yet both have been defeated by Derby with McClaren as manager.
Whilst results on the pitch have improved, McClaren has also moved to strengthen the squad and the backroom staff. Former Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele as well as nomadic manager Paul Simpson have both been given senior coaching roles. The Rams defence has also been beefed up with loan signings Michael Keane and Andre Wisdom from Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively.
Love him or loathe him, McClaren's reputation in England has never recovered from his ill-fated spell in charge of the national team. The Championship is a notoriously difficult division, and although he's only been in charge for two months, there are signs on and off the pitch that McClaren is up to the challenge ahead of him.
If he can keep adding canny loan signings and strengthening his squad, there's no reason why McClaren can't push his new club to a surprise play-off finish this season. If he can go one better and achieve promotion, the unthinkable may just happen. He might just shake off the "wally with a brolly" tag and prove his critics wrong.