venerdì 27 gennaio 2012

Archie Gemmill

by Mike Cockayne

The £60000 transfer of Archie Gemmill was undoubtedly Brian Clough's most audacious signing for Derby County. When he heard in September 1970 that the Preston North End midfielder was close to signing for Everton, Clough drove directly to Lancashire. When young Archie initially refused to sign, the Derby boss, in typical fashion, invited himself to stay overnight at the Gemmill household! His persistance was rewarded when the following morning he persuaded the 23 year old Scot that his future lay at the Baseball Ground rather than on Merseyside. Gemmill's role for County was to provide the link between defence and attack, utilising his remarkable stamina to make lung-bursting runs between the two penalty areas. He scored three times in the "Rams" 1970/71 league campaign, his strikes against Nottingham Forest, Manchester United and Wolves capping fine individual displays. Derby remained unbeaten for twelve games at the start of the 1971/72 season, and eventually won the First Division Championship having kept twenty-three clean sheets. Archie was at his best on the notoriously heavy Baseball Ground surface. As soon as he got possession of the ball he would often carry it, seemingly unhindered by the mud, deep into the opposition half, leaving would be tacklers slipping and sliding in his wake. As champions Derby took their place in the 1972/73 European Cup, eventually going out 3-1 on aggregate at the semi-final stage to Juventus. Gemmill played well in the "Rams" early games in the competition, scoring against Zeljenicar Sarajevo in the first round. Significantly, however, suspension kept him out of the vital second leg fixture against the Italians, a game that finished scoreless at the Baseball Ground. After their European exit, County won their last three league matches to finish in seventh place in Division One. Archie ended the season with a series of fine performances, scoring his third goal of the campaign, a penalty, in a 3-1 victory against Everton.
Derby recovered from the infamous Brian Clough resignation drama in October 1973 to finish third in the 1973/74 Division One table. Archie's only league goal of the season under new manager Dave Mackay came from the penalty spot in a 2-1 defeat by Queens Park Rangers. He also netted an FA Cup hat-trick against Boston United, ensuring County's 6-1 third round replay victory. With Roy McFarland on the sidelines for all but the final four games of the 1974/75 campaign, Gemmill took on the additional responsibility of team captain. He proved to be an inspirational leader, constantly urging his team-mates on and seemingly growing stronger as opponents tired. An unbeaten sequence of nine games at the end of the season saw Derby win the Championship by two points from Liverpool and Ipswich. Archie missed just one of the forty-two league fixtures, his partnership in midfield with fellow Scot Bruce Rioch being outstanding throughout. County also reached the third round of the 1974/75 UEFA Cup competition. Archie marked his 200th overall game for the club with a magnificent performance in a 2-2 away draw against Atletico Madrid.
The following season the Scottish international was an ever present in the side, scoring five times including a great winning goal in a 3-2 win against Middlesborough. The "Rams" thrashed Ipswich 6-2 on the last day of the season to clinch a creditable fourth place finish. The club also progressed to the semi-final stage of the FA Cup, losing 2-0 to Manchester United. In the 1975/76 European Cup Gemmill had a tremendous game as the "Rams" crushed the mighty Real Madrid 4-1 at the Baseball Ground. Their three goal advantage proved to be insufficient however; Derby, despite Archie's best efforts, being swept aside 5-1 in the return game to go out 6-5 on aggregate.

County got off to a dreadful start in the 1976/77 season, gleaning just five points from their first eight fixtures. Tottenham were then thrashed 8-2, but soon afterwards Dave Mackay resigned as manager. Reserve team boss Colin Murphy took over the reins, and in another amazing end to the campaign the "Rams" lost just twice in their last seventeen games, eventually finishing fifteenth. Archie played in a more forward positon in several games under the new manager, his goal against Manchester City helping County gain a 4-0 victory. In 1977/78 Murphy himself paid the price for another poor start to the season, being replaced by Tommy Docherty after Derby had gained two points from their opening five games. The "Rams" game against Leeds on September 17th also brought to an end Archie's first spell with the club. He scored in a 2-2 draw, but soon afterwards rejoined Clough at East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest in a £25000 deal that involved young goalkeeper John Middleton moving to County.

Gemmill returned to the Baseball Ground in November 1982 after a five year absence that saw him make 164 league appearances for Forest, Birmingham and Wigan. Archie made twenty-five league appearances for the "Rams" during the 1982/83 campaign, inspiring a 15 game unbeaten run between January and April 1983 that ensured the club's thirteenth pace finish in Division Two. He also netted six goals in his return season, including a superb curling free kick in a 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic. County's inability to score on a regular enough basis resulted in a 20th place finish in the league table and relegation to the Third Division the following season. Archie played his final game for the club on the last day of the campaign, sadly for him, missing a penalty in a 3-0 defeat at Shrewsbury Town. Overall, Archie made 404 appearances for Derby County, scoring 33 goals. At international level he played twenty-two of his forty-three games for Scotland whilst at the Baseball Ground, being best remembered for his stunning dribble and goal against Holland at the 1978 World Cup. It would be unfair to remember Archie as just a player with remarkable stamina. His competetive attitude was as strong at the end of his Derby County career as it had been at the start. He developed his overall game to such a level that, at his peak, there were few better midfielders around in the British game.

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