Derby County's recent history has been one of financial prudence. The Rams have cut the purse-strings and slashed the wage budget in an attempt to live within their means, no doubt with FFP just around the corner.
However, Derby have been known to splash the cash on occasion, although, it hasn't always worked out as expected. Here are the top five record signings for Derby County.
5. Claude Davis - £3,500,000
Ask any Derby fan to name an all-time worst XI, and the chances are Claude Davis will be the first pick, second pick, third pick and captain. Signed in 2007 for a fee of £3,500,000 and offered wages comparable to several experienced Premier League centre-halves (estimates range from £20,000-£45,000...eugh), Davis proved to be the worst value player Derby County have ever had the misfortune to pay.
Davis not only made the task of heading a ball straight look more difficult than dodging traffic at a wet Monaco, but his ability with the ball at his feet inspired even less confidence in both the crowd and his teammates.
"Calamity Claude" as he was known was, quite simply, the worst centre-half to play for Derby County. Several of the goals Derby conceded over that disastrous 2007/08 season (and there were several of them...eugh) were down to ludicrous individual errors by Davis. From passing a ball directly to a striker to forgetting to jump at set pieces, Davis' one season at Derby County summed up everything wrong with the club at the time:
Poor players with poor attitudes paid far too much money. £3,500,000 for Claude Davis.
4. Rob Earnshaw - £3,500,000
Rob Earnshaw was supposed to be Billy Davies' marquee signing in the summer of 2007. Derby County had returned to the Premier League for the first time in five years after beating West Brom in the play-off final some months prior. All and sundry agreed, that if Derby were to have a serious chance of staying up, they needed to add some real quality up front.
Earnshaw appeared to fit the bill. Over the 2006/07 season, the Norwich striker had scored 19 goals in the Championship despite missing over two months of the season through injury and was, seemingly, in the goalscoring form of his life. His pace and "fox in the box" attributes would, according to Davies, frighten defences in the Premier League as Derby looked to stay in the division.
Earnshaw made 22 appearances in his only season for Derby County, most from the bench. He scored one goal.
The diminutive forward was barely given a sniff of first-team action by either Davies or his replacement Paul Jewell, with both choosing to play Kenny "cover two yards a minute" Miller up front.
No Derby fan has ever quite understood why. Earnshaw never looked anything special when brought on, but that made him look head and shoulders above anyone else in that Derby side of 2007/08...ironically.
You can only assume that Earnshaw must have had a bad enough attitude to warrant a constant spot on the bench. Given how bad that Derby side was (only 11 points that season), it must have been some attitude.
Earnshaw was sold to local rivals Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2008.
3. Georgi Kinkladze - £3,000,000
It's hard to work out whether or not you could consider Georgi Kinkladze a "success" at Derby. Over the three years he spent at Pride Park from 2000-2003, Derby were relegated to the Championship and the little Georgian only managed six goals in 80 games over that time.
At Manchester City, "Kinky" was nothing short of a revelation - at first. He won two player of the season awards at Maine Road before losing his motivation and joining Ajax in 1998. One managerial fall-out later and Kinkladze was brought in by Jim Smith to provide a creative spark alongside Stefano Eranio in midfield.
Kinkladze was certainly popular with the Derby fans, even if those moments of on-the-ball magic were all-too-rare given his reputation. As The Rams' debt problems worsened around 2002 (£35,000,000 by this stage), the club tried to offload Kinkladze and his considerable wages, but with no serious offers on the table given his poor form, he would drop into the Championship with Derby for the final year of his contract.
Kinky's form improved over that final season and he was named Derby's player of the season, leaving at the conclusion of his contract in the summer of 2003. Kinkladze remains a player who could have been a Derby legend at a time when quality was short at Pride Park, but a lack of motivation hampered any chance of the Georgian getting the big move he felt he deserved.
2. Seth Johnson - £3,000,000
Unlike the majority of Derby County's big-money signings, Seth Johnson proved to be worth every single penny Jim Smith gave to Crewe Alexandra in 1999.
Johnson's attitude toward the game was summed up by his choosing to sign for Derby over Liverpool because he wanted guaranteed first-team football. Although, he initially refused to join the Rams until he had guaranteed Crewe's safety in then-Division One.
So popular with Crewe fans was Johnson, that they affectionately (and unofficially) renamed the main stand at Alexandra Stadium the "Seth Stand", because Johnson's fee paid for it's expansion! That trend would continue at Derby, where Seth's wholehearted displays and range of passing made him a firm Pride Park favourite.
Johnson impressed fans and pundits alike during his first stint at Derby and was given his only cap for England in a friendly against Italy in 2000 (several experts have since put Johnson in amongst the worst players to have ever won a cap for England...harsh to say the least, Carlton Palmer he ain't). A year later, Peter Risdale spent £7,000,000, a record received fee that stands to this day, to bring Johnson to Leeds United.
Johnson would return to Pride Park after four years of knee-related hell at Elland Road and was instrumental in getting the Rams back up to the Premier League, playing a key role in Derby's 1-0 playoff final win over West Bromwich Albion in 2007.
Johnson's season, and career, would end that day at Wembley Stadium. Looking over to the bench on 87 minutes, Johnson uttered the words that broke the hearts of Derby fans across the country: "my knee's gone". Indeed it had. Johnson limped off the heralded Wembley turf, barely able to stand, and never played professional football again.
His commitment, effort, passing ability and knack for scoring incredible long-range efforts endeared him to so many and he remains a legend at both Pride Park and Alexandra Stadium.
1. Francois Grenet - £3,000,000
"The only reason he isn't in the French side is because Lilian Thuram plays there".
It hurts to read that quote today, uttered by a true Derby County legend in Colin Todd, one of the greatest centre-halves of his generation and, at the time of Francois Grenet's heralded arrival, Derby County manager.
Todd made nearly 300 appearances for Derby in the 1970's, but would only last 17 as Rams' manager in the disastrous 2001/02 season that saw the club relegated from the Premier League without so much as a whimper.
That season was summed up by right-back Grenet, who himself only played 14 games for The Rams. Arriving amid much fanfare from Bordeaux for a pricey £3,000,000, Grenet would look anything other than graceful. In fact, he made Bambi's ice-routine look positively Boitano-esque.
Grenet's inability to make a challenge without drawing a foul, lack of positional awareness, aerial ineptitude and utter humiliation at the hands of Nathan Ellington in an FA Cup game, showed Todd's comments for exactly what they were: a desperate ploy by a manager clearly struggling to inspire an overpaid and under-performing squad.
The Frenchman picked up a huge wage for very little work at Pride Park and, predictably, never did displace Lilian Thuram in the French national side.
Do you think any of these players were worth the money, or a massive waste of cash? Comment below.