At least Alan Curbishley, the visiting, victorious and very gracious manager, believed it even if no one else did. "No one's stranded down there yet," he said. "Derby still have everything to play for." But for the Pride Park faithful that old line springs to mind – if everything's not lost, then where the hell is it?
Billy Davies is probably not the man to ask, not until the transfer window opens anyhow. Short of hiring the Tardis or persuading his countryman Gordon Brown to cancel December it is difficult to envisage how he and his basement-dwellers will make it to January without suffering terminal damage. Their impending fixture list reads like the evidence on the charge-sheet of the damned. Chelsea, Old Trafford, Liverpool? all are coming up before Christmas.
Except it is not all doom, gloom and more doom; it never could be with a man in charge with such self-belief as Davies. And fortunately the West Ham taunts of "you're getting sacked in the morning" were well wide of the mark. Everybody appreciates Davies performed a miracle simply to get Derby in to the Premier League and is now merely paying the price for doing it a little too soon. "That is true, yes, I've always said it is," he replied when chucked this curve-ball on Saturday. "It probably would have been more ideal to wait a year or two. But you're not going to turn the chance down are you? We've just got to get on with it."
"To get on", should be the buzz phrase, because as soon as West Ham had gone one up through Lee Bowyer most of the men in black and white appeared to want "to get off". If their football was awful then their attitude was reprehensible and is what clearly upset Davies most of all. Going down in a blaze of apathy is not what this Glaswegian is all about.
That alarming trait will be uppermost in his mind when and if he can persuade the new chairman, Adam Pearson, to release the necessary funds in the New Year. It will be a hard sell, though, as the billboard, "Sign up for four months of Premiership action" will hardly have them queuing up the M1, now will it? Conversely, Upton Park might be the place to be very soon.
Saying that, it seems daft if they do break the bank, not to mention the morale, by luring Adriano. On this showing they do not need him. Curbishley has made much of the fact he is missing 13 top-level performers and if the situation is as "unprecedented" as he claims then West Ham at full-strength will be intoxicating. While the big names such as Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker have been away the supposed lesser likes of Carlton Cole, Luis Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer have had to play and, boy, how they did so here.
Nolberto Solano probably nudged two-goal Bowyer for the man-of-the-match honours, but there were five or six contenders. All in all, it must have been nice – in a bizarre sense – for Curbishley to find himself in a position to dish out the sympathy. "I feel for Billy, I've been there," he said. And he survived. Just.
Goals: Bowyer (42) 0-1, Etherington (51) 0-2, Lewis (55 og) 0-3, Bowyer (59) 0-4, Solano (69) 0-5.
Derby (4-4-1-1): Bywater; Mears, Moore, Edworthy, Griffin; Lewis (Eanrshaw, 58), Oakley, Pearson, Teale (Howard 52); Barnes; Miller (Fagan 75). Substitutes not used: McEveley, Jones.
West Ham (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney (Pantsil 14); Solano, Spector, Bowyer (Collins 72); Etherington; Cole, Boa Morte. Substitutes not used: Wright, Ljungberg, Camara.
Booked: Derby: Oakley, Fagan. West Ham: Pantsil, Bowyer.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Man of the match: Solano.
Attendance: 32,440.Reuse content