Back To The Eighties: 1980/81, Part Three – The Decline Of Derby County
The third week of September saw Match Of The Day take its cameras to the south coast, the west country and the east Midlands. Sadly – or, for all we know, not – the match between Bristol City and Notts County are not available to us, but highlights, albeit in one case very brief, of the other two matches, between Southampton & Liverpool and Derby County & Wrexham, are. There is little question that Match Of The Day’s main match from the The Dell was the most important match of the weekend, with Southampton second place in the table and Liverpool sitting one point and one place behind them.
The other match saw Derby County play Wrexham at The Baseball Ground in the Second Division. Little more than five years earlier Derby had been the champions of England, but the club’s deterioration since then had been rapid. The manager that had guided the club to its second league title in in four years in 1975, Dave Mackay, should have been one of the most secure in England, having taken the club to a league title and two top five finishes, as well as an FA Cup semi-final, in less than three years in charge of the club. However, a poor start to the 1976/77 season ended in Mackay being sacked in November 1976.
Following this, the club became increasingly unstable, with the remaining players from the two championship winning teams retiring or leaving, a succession of managers unable to stop the decline and rumours of irregularities at board level – which led to a police investigation at the club during the summer of 1979 – meant that one of the only two clubs to win the Football League Championship during the 1970s ended the decade sliding out of the First Division, and their relegation was confirmed with some room to spare at the end of the 1979/80 season. The club started its time back in the Second Division – its first season there since 1969 – with a defeat, but following this a run of four wins in their next five matches took them into their home match against Wrexham in second place in the table.
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