Every summer hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Channel Islands, an archipelago in the English Channel off the French coast of Normandy. The Rams have had their own excursions there to play in friendly matches, visiting Guernsey in 1969 and 1970, and Jersey in 2001.
After Kevin Hector’s brace in a 2-0 win at home to Cardiff City on 1 February 1969, Derby did not play another league game until 1 March due to poor weather across the country. To keep fit, the Rams had been to Bisham Abbey and played a friendly against Wycombe, but also seen friendlies at Bournemouth and Jersey called off. On Saturday 22 February, Derby’s first team squad arrived at East Midlands Airport for a flight to Cork to play another arranged friendly. Leicester City had a similar idea with their players also at the airport booked on the same flight. However, the Viscount aircraft arriving from Manchester could not land due to fog and poor visibility so both clubs had to cancel their plans. Not to be deterred, two days later the Derby squad did manage to catch a flight to Guernsey for a three-day visit. Their hosts clearly saw the trip as a huge event for the island, demonstrated by the headline on one of the main news pages of The Derby Evening Telegraph that read ‘Film-star Reception – Then Rams Take it Easy’. As the squad of 14 stepped off the plane, they were met by officials of the Guernsey FA, autograph hunters and camera men before being taken by coach to their hotel for a meal, then after a guided tour of the island.
In a pre-game interview, assistant manager Peter Taylor said he was delighted with the arrangements: ‘Everything from the hospitality to the weather is wonderful. We are going to play our game in normal conditions and this is just the thing we need after the three-week lay-off. It’s hard to imagine the bad weather back home when it is so good here. The players are really looking forward to the game tonight’. The friendly was played on Tuesday 25 February at the Track, Guernsey’s main football ground at the time, against a representative team made up of the best players from the 8 clubs in Guernsey’s First Division. Two seasons previously, a Guernsey team convincingly beat a top London amateur club, so the Rams were expecting a difficult game.
The four-page programme issued for the game contains little reading material other than brief player profiles for both teams and a full-page advert for Player’s No 6. Filter cigarettes on the back page. The Guernsey squad lists players with occupations including company secretary, civil servant, insurance agent, driver, banker, signwriter, and school sports master.
On the night, a crowd of over 3000 watched Derby comfortably beat their hosts 6-1. From the whistle, O’Hare ran straight through the defence to win a corner which was not properly cleared, and Durban shot through a crowd to give the Rams the lead. Durban and Mackay were splitting the defence with their passing and Wignall, a recent £20,000 signing from Wolves, scored the second after 7 minutes. Hector, Hinton and Wignall all had efforts well saved by the goalkeeper before Guernsey scored ‘a shock goal’ in the 19th minute when winger Arthur Pugh mis-hit a cross which curled gracefully into the top corner. The Rams then scored two goals in a minute from Durban and Hector to make it 4-1 before half time. In the second half, Hinton scored a fifth before McFarland nodded on for O’Hare to net Derby’s final goal.
Derby X1: Green, Webster, Robson, Durban, McFarland, Mackay, Carlin, Hector, O’Hare, Wignall, Hinton. Sub – McGovern.
After the game Peter Taylor said: ‘This was a tremendous work-out for us. They really wanted to win, so it was not a case of us playing at half pace. This has been a far better break than usual and the expense has easily been justified. We shall definitely come over again before the end of the season.’ Derby flew back to East Midlands Airport the next day, then were straight on a coach to Stoke to play in the testimonial for Allen and Skeels on the same evening.
Peter Taylor was true to his word, but it was nearly a year later when the Rams returned to Guernsey rather than before the end of the 1969/70 season. This time Derby were using the friendly as preparation for their next game at home to Arsenal. Nick Oliver, a 25-year-old local businessman from Guernsey, was instrumental in arranging the return visit as he had formed a Derby County appreciation society and was waiting for Derby’s board to officially agree a formal supporters’ association on the island.
Another basic four-page programme was printed for the game with even less content than the previous year’s version. Derby again won convincingly, scoring 5 without reply against a Guernsey Select X1 on Wednesday 18 February 1970. Although played in heavy mud, over 2500 fans turned up to watch the game in the rain. Alan Hinton sent a low shot screaming past the post after only 30 seconds, before Willie Carlin put the Rams 1-0 ahead in the fourth minute. O’Hare and Hinton could have put Derby further ahead and it took over 10 minutes before Guernsey had possession in Derby’s half. In the 29th minute, Carlin raced down the line and crossed to Durban, who headed the ball down for O’Hare to slide the ball in. Seven minutes before half time, Kevin Hector picked the ball up just inside Guernsey’s half and ran straight through to put Derby 3-0 ahead. Carlin and Durban were replaced at half time by Wignall and McGovern. Seven minutes into the second half, a Derby corner found Hennessey who shot through a tangle of players in the goalmouth to score his first goal for the Rams. Guernsey made 8 second half changes and started to grow into the game, eventually winning a penalty after McFarland brought down Lesbirel in the 65th minute. The same player took the penalty, but Green dived to his right to make his save on the line look easy. 11 minutes later though McFarland made amends for giving away the penalty, heading in from McGovern’s corner to score Derby’s fifth.
Derby’s last visit to the Channel Islands was to Jersey on Tuesday 8 May 2001. The Rams had faced a season of struggle in the Premier League but the Saturday before, Malcolm Christie scored a stunning goal to give Derby a 1-0 win at Old Trafford and confirm the club’s place in the division for another season. With a two-week gap until the final game of the campaign at home to Ipswich, Jim Smith took a full-strength squad to Jersey to play St. Martin’s as part of their centenary celebrations. Despite St. Martin’s being formed in 1894, the match at Springfield Stadium in St Helier was being billed as a delayed conclusion to the centenary.
A 24-page programme, priced £1.50, was issued for the friendly. The Derby team page lists Poom, Carbonari, Daryl Powell, Delap, Burley, Sturridge, Kinkladze, Higginbotham, Mawene, Eranio, Riggott, Christie, Evatt, Strupar and the enigmatic Taribo West as part of the squad. The Rams won the game 7-3, with Christie scoring a hat-trick and Kinkladze and Gudjonsson also among the scorers.