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Crowd heard stories from Jim Smith’s time in charge of Derby County

A bumper crowd was treated to stories of Derby County, under manager Jim Smith as part of Derby Book Festival’s Autumn programme.

It was told by former BBC Radio Derby commentators Graham Richards and Colin Gibson, plus author Ryan Hills – in the penultimate Derby Book Festival event of 2022.

Former sports journalist Kerry Ganly, now an account manager with Penguin PR, hosted the evening at Landau Forte College where the trio spoke about how Smith, fondly known as the Bald Eagle, came to sign Paulo Wanchope and goalkeeper Mart Poom.

Ryan Hills talked about how speaking to former Derby County players, supporters and staff who worked at the club under Smith had been a labour of love, and how the Rams became world leaders in technology and football analysis in the early 1990s.

He said:

“It was great to see so many people at the event and I’m grateful to the organisers of the Derby Book Festival for hosting it.

“As a Derby County supporter myself, I grew up worshipping icons such as Branko Strupar, Mart Poom and Malcoln Christie; a bargain buy who was purchased from non-league Nuneaton Borough, so it was nice to hear first-hand from Graham and Colin about how those signings came about.”

‘Groundwork’ – a follow-up to ‘Pride: The Inside Story of Derby County in the 21st Century’ – documents how Jim Smith was responsible for leading the way in the mid to late-1990s when it came to new ways of looking at the game, the introduction of sports psychologists and the infamous ‘Prozone’.

Ryan added:

“While I loved working on ‘Pride’, that book was about a 20-year spell mired in turmoil and ultimately disaster.

“This period is neither of those things. It was one of hope, of genuine delight among the fanbase and of the ability to dream. And that’s what supporting a football club should be about.

“It’s more than 90 minutes, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a family, a bond you can never break. Yes, it can be tough, it can be horrible, and it can infuriate. But life without it is not worth considering, especially after the turmoil we’ve all been through over the past 18 months.”

The trio answered questions from the audience and also signed copies of the book.

Derby County supporter Alan Clarke said:

“The voices of Graham Richards and Colin Gibson are synonymous with Derby County and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories of what is perhaps one of the most successful periods in the Rams’ recent history.”

The final Derby Book Festival event will take place at QUAD on Wednesday, December 21 (7.30pm) and sees Sebastian Payne, Whitehall editor for the Financial Times, telling the behind-the-scenes story charting the series of scandals that felled former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It concludes a hugely successful year for the festival, which is organised in partnership with all the major arts and cultural partners in the city with funding from the Arts Council England, the University of Derby and more than 20 businesses and individuals across the city.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE, DL, vice-chancellor of the University of Derby, said:

“I am delighted that the University of Derby continues to support Derby Book Festival. The Festival continues to go from strength to strength, enriching the city’s diverse arts and cultural offering and providing people with more ways to explore, celebrate and share experiences to create a sense of place.”

Liz Fothergill CBE, chair of the festival said:

“Books provide us with adventures into other worlds and lives, exploring new ideas, topics and creating conversations. We hope our events inspire people to discover new authors and encourage their love of books.”

Tickets can be booked online by clicking the link here – Sebastian Payne: The Fall of Boris Johnson: The Full Story | Derby Book Festival or by phone: 01332 290606.

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