Among the rumours circulating in the last few days, none has raised as many eyebrows as the suggestion that Kevin Blackwell might quit Leeds, who have a decent chance of promotion, to become the manager of Derby, who cannot yet discount the possibility of a future in League One.
It is an extraordinary thought, but Blackwell's Leeds contract expires in the summer and Derby, who sacked Phil Brown last month, have a vacancy. Unless it was really a masochistic desire to work with mountainous debts that drew Blackwell to Leeds, the idea that such a notion could become reality seems absurd. But when a club fail to secure the future of their biggest asset, the preposterous becomes possible.
Blackwell insists he is unworried that no new deal has been discussed, but while Leeds can turn down approaches from the likes of Derby and Leicester, what if, say, Newcastle were to show an interest? From Derby's point of view, the idea of trying to lure Blackwell, who has created promotion contenders from the remnants of a fire sale in barely 18 months at Elland Road, is not so outlandish.
With debts of £45m, a possible takeover bid from a consortium led by the former vice-chairman Peter Gadsby is gathering support, as was evident in a demonstration staged by several hundred Derby fans outside the main entrance to Pride Park on Saturday. Gadsby would want the opening created by Brown's dismissal to be filled by a manager of Blackwell's calibre at least.
For their part, Derby's players did not do a bad job of selling themselves as a going concern on Saturday, withstanding everything Leeds could throw at them and going close to pulling off only a third win since 22 November. Danny Graham should have scored after 58 minutes, finding himself with only Neil Sullivan to beat but shooting straight at the Leeds goalkeeper.
Darren Moore did a splendid job marshalling Derby's defence and only Jonathan Douglas was guilty of a glaring miss when he fired Liam Miller's cut-back pass high and wide.
Blackwell commended his players for gaining an away point but in terms of pursuing the second automatic promotion place they handed the baton to Watford, although they have an immediate chance to grab it back by beating Adrian Boothroyd's team at Elland Road tomorrow.
Derby County (4-4-2): Camp; Jackson (Doyle, 61), Hajto, D Moore, Edworthy; Bisgaard (Holmes, 74), Bolder, Barnes, Smith; Graham (Peschisolido, 74), El Hamdaoui. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Nyatanga.
Leeds United (4-3-3): Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Miller, Douglas, Derry; Blake (I Moore, 71), Hulse, Lewis (Pugh, 89). Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Einarsson, Walton.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Derby County Hajto, El Hamdaoui; Leeds United Derry, Kelly.
Man of the match: D Moore.
Attendance: 27,000.Reuse content