Why Derby County’s decision to go through with Johnny Russell’s sale has backfired
During the January transfer window, Johnny Russell joined Sporting Kansas City, signing a three-year deal in the MLS for a fee worth a nominal £250,000. He went with the blessing of Gary Rowett and a Derby County team for which he had made over 200 appearances, including 25 this season.
It appears that he was unable to agree on a new deal with the East Midlands side and actually took a pay cut to move to the MLS. Since Russell’s departure, Derby have taken 5 from a possible 12 points and although that can be attributed to their usual ‘February Slump’, the loss of a character like Johnny Russell from the dressing room can have a negative effect.
Russell was signed by Nigel Clough at the beginning of the 2013 season from Dundee United. He quickly endeared himself to the fans with his direct style of running and classy delivery. That season, Derby finished 3rd in the league and made it to the Championship playoff final, where they narrowly lost to Queens Park Rangers 1-0.
It was Derby’s sixth season back down in the second flight and it was by far the best. A part of the reason Derby played so well was the contribution of the ‘Flying Scotsman’ on the wing. He was a part of one of the best Derby sides for a long time, with Chris Martin, Will Hughes and Craig Bryson at the top of their game, ably supported by Johnny Russell.
The reason that Russell will be remembered so fondly by Derby County fans for years to come is his performances against Forest, especially the goal he scored in Derby’s 5-0 demolition of the Reds at Pride Park in 2014. Johnny Russell received the ball on the left-hand side between the halfway line and the box, he took a few steps forward and hit a powerful, curling shot past the despairing Nottingham Forest keeper. It was a thing of beauty and a goal that will live long in the Rams fans memories.
There have been question marks on his delivery over the past few years, and it did seem like he wouldn’t make it to the best Derby team about a year ago. But he responded in typical Johnny Russell style and worked hard to earn his place in the team.
Derby may not miss his contribution as much as they would have done in the past, and arguably they now have better players in that position, but it is very unlikely that any of them will be remembered as fondly as Johnny Russell will be.