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Former owners back to save Derby County?

The 17th September 2021 will be a day of infamy for the city of Derby and the fans of Derby County football club. One of the founding members of the football league, a team established in 1884 was put in to administration by owner Mel Morris.

The news came as a shock to not just local supporters, but to fans of football across England.

Restructuring and insolvency experts Quantuma came in and despite a HMRC tax bill of £26million+, a club who doesn’t own its stadium, loans of around £15million to MSD holding and transfer arrears mounting over £10million, they spoke positively about finding a buyer for the club.

A few names of potential buyers have been mentioned by the media, which have included Carlisle Capital, Gary Cook, Marcus Evans and Mike Ashley, although Ashley rumours have been debunked.

Another name that was mentioned today by John Percy from The Telegraph is a consortium led by Burton Albion board member Jez Moxey. He is working on behalf of General Sports Worldwide, a group which includes former owner Andy Appleby and former CEO Sam Rush.

The Supporters group have had limited dialogue with Andy Appleby & are delighted to say he has confirmed his interest in buying Derby County out of Administration - Andy has said that he’d be happy to take part in a Q&A in due course.

Appleby first joined The Rams in 2008 when GSE took over at Pride Park halfway through the disastrous 2007-08 Premier League season.

Following relegation to The Championship he along with Nigel Clough helped slash the wage bill and ran the football club more frugally. The club was at risk of become a sinking ship before he came in and helped stabilise.

In January 2013 he appointed Sam Rush as CEO to replace Tom Glick who left to join Manchester City.

Rush subsequently sacked Nigel Clough as manager in September 2013 and brought in Steve McClaren. The Rams then went on to the playoff final where they narrowly missed out on promotion following a 1-0 defeat to QPR in the final at Wembley.

Mel Morris then brought the club off GSE in 2015. Sam Rush was controversially sacked by Morris in May 2017 on “grounds of gross misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty”. Rush said he was "incredibly shocked and disappointed", and denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

The potential for Rush to be back in charge of the club hasn’t gone down well with some fans due to his sacking.

However in March 2018 an employment tribunal concluded that Sam Rush was found to be dismissed unfairly by Derby County. His lawyer Paul Daniels issues the following statement.

“We are very pleased but not at all surprised that Mr Rush has won his claim for unfair dismissal.We have always made clear that Mr Rush did absolutely nothing wrong at the Club, so to be treated in the way he was, was extremely disappointing to say the least. Mr Rush looks forward to telling the whole story of his treatment by the Club and to the High Court ruling on his claims as soon as possible.”

“The counter-allegations against Mr Rush are entirely without foundation. We would note that many of the payments alleged to be somehow unauthorised had been subject to very detailed due diligence by Mr Morris’ Solicitors when he bought the Club as well as professionally audited by independent auditors, with no concerns being raised at any stage.

“Secondly, Mr Rush had no power to sign off any payments at the Club, with all payments being signed and authorised by the Finance Director.

Needless to say, Mr Rush strongly denies any wrongdoing in any shape or form and is very disappointed and saddened that the Club have chosen to pursue these entirely unfounded allegations after he wrote launching his substantial legal claim for damages for breach of contract, unfair dismissal and regarding his 5% shareholding in the Club.

“Finally, we have noted the allegations made in the Accounts just published by the Club and our client categorically confirms that there is no substance whatsoever in those allegations.”

In October 2018 Derby announced it had settled their differences and the two parties had gone their separate ways.

Right now the club needs stability, they have had constant battles with the EFL and are set to have another -9pt deduction for failing FFP. They are appealing against the automatic -12 point deduction following claims that COVID was the main factor for the club going in to administration.

If they can win the appeal and just be punished with the -9 then it will be tough but they could potentially stay up in this league. If they don’t win then they are looking at a possible -21 point deduction this will surely see them playing league one football next season.

New owners will know doubt have this in their minds and have a plan on how they rebuild this great club.

For me and a lot of fans Appleby is a great fit, he knows the club well and has been in the position before where the club needs stabilising and rebuilding, all though this time it might be from league one.

The administrators are confident they can reach an agreement with someone before January, which is a positive as it means they shouldn’t be a need for a fire sale of players to help keep the club a float.

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