Paul Peschisolido arrived at Derby County in 2003, and quickly established himself as a fan favourite during a four year spell which featured two relegation battles and two promotion campaigns.
The Canadian played nearly 100 times for the Rams, scoring crucial goals along the way.
SBW met ‘Pesch’ in Episode 20. Part of the transcript is below, and you listen to the full interview further down.
SBW: Paul Peschisolido, welcome to SBW, it’s great of you to give us your time. How are you doing?
PP: I’m very good thank you.
SBW: We did spot you on Rams TV recently. Do you get back to Pride Park much these days?
PP: Not as much as I’d like to. I’ve been back on a couple of occasions, for the Forest game and Burton Albion when Michael Johnson invited me into the studio. It was a great game of football and I enjoyed being back.
SBW: Seeing Derby in the promotion mix is quite familiar to you having played in two playoff campaigns in 2005 and 2007, but it was a bit of a rollercoaster for you at the club wasn’t it? How do you look back on your time with the club?
PP: Nothing but fond memories, but it was crazy. It was relegation-promotion-relegation-promotion, all four seasons. I was at Sheffield Utd and we were riding high in the table, but I was fed up of being a bit-part player.
I got the phone call from George Burley and Michael Johnson, saying Sheff Utd had accepted a bid and would I sit down with them, which I did, and I was very impressed with everything.
I saw the facilities and what the club was all about, and I knew there would be more players to come because the club was in a relegation battle. It was great – although it always helps when you manage to score on your debut, which I did against Rotherham.
SBW: The season you joined you couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the fans, four goals in your first three games.
PP: It was indeed. The club was in dire straits in a relegation battle and nobody wanted them – certainly I didn’t. It’s always good to endear yourself to the supporters with your first goal, especially when it’s the winner. It makes the transition seamless.
SBW: Two of those goals included a certain brace against Derby’s local rivals. How much do you remember about that day?
PP: I remember everything. The build-up is massive, and I hadn’t been involved in the derby before, but had heard so much about it. You see the newspapers and what it means to supporters so there was a lot of pressure on it.
We were both in a relegation scrap at the time, so it was fabulous. A great occasion and a very windy afternoon, as one of my goals was probably a result of. To score two against the local rivals is probably why I have such a good affinity with Derby County.
SBW: Tell us about ‘the coffee cup goal’…
PP: It’s one of those ‘what happened next?’ moments, it was a freak of nature. You’ll never see anything like that happen again. It was a windy day, there was a lot of debris on the pitch, but the ball was passed back to the goalkeeper, a harmless backpass. I thought I’d chase it down to make a bit of an effort, and a gust of wind picked up this Kenco coffee cup, managed to tee up the ball as he went to clear it.
It sat up as a tee, he’s kicked the cup, taken about 20% of the ball, and it was goes straight up in the air for me to volley in. I didn’t really know what to do, how to celebrate. I was bemused, but looking back I wish I could’ve run around the pitch a few times, but I scored a second which made up for that.
SBW: What’s it like to join a new team – is it like being the new kid at school?
PP: I was over 30 by then, so knew a lot of players having played with them or against them, but it’s still new. You’ve got to meet all the staff and the kitman, the physios, and there are still players you don’t know, but you’re always made to feel welcome. Also if you go in there and there are doubts about you, if you score and help the team win, the players accept you. I was very fortunate in managing to score on most of my debuts.
SBW: Who helped you settle in the most?
PP: I knew Johnno (Michael Johnson), and Jeff Kenna. It was a completely different squad – I remember Marco Reich, he was hilarious, Junior was a funny character. There was a good core of players that I got on with really well.
SBW: The next season Derby were a different proposition and got in the playoffs. How did George Burley improve Derby as much as he did?
PP: Strengthening it with players, the likes of Ian Taylor, who was a great player and a huge character. He bought in the right players at the right time and it just clicked. George had a very good way of getting the group together, I don’t know how he did it, but he did bring in some good senior pros – the likes of myself, Michael Johnson, Jeff Kenna, Ian Taylor. They took a lot of responsibility in the dressing room.
SBW: Did you try to look after young players in the dressing room?
PP: Absolutely. We integrated them and gave them advice if they wanted it, if they didn’t want it you left them alone. We even had Giles Barnes, who came through in the later seasons, he had to be knocked down a few pegs as he was very confident.
He could’ve gone on to great things, but there’s confidence and there’s arrogance, and sometimes there was arrogance with Barnesy. He was a great player and he knew it, but sometimes people like more humble people.
There’s a time and a place to do your showboating, and he sometimes chose the wrong areas to do it. He used to go past players in training and take the Mickey out of them. Myself and Darren Moore took him aside and told him, ‘You’re a fabulous player, but less of that.’ Billy (Davies) was hard on him too because he didn’t like that sort of stuff.
SBW: That team also boasted a very young Tom Huddlestone – what did you make of him when he first broke through?
PP: Unbelievable, I’d never seen anything like him. You could ping a ball at him from 2ft away and he would kill it. His first touch was phenomenal, and his vision, passing – very calm and collected. What he lacked in pace he made up for with his footballing brain, he’s a wonderful player.
SBW: How was Billy Davies’ management style different to George Burley’s?
PP: George was very laid back and let you get on with it. Under Billy, he was a disciplinarian, and was all about putting a bubble around the squad. It was us against the world. He had a knack for making us feel we should stick together.
Tactically he was very good, his training sessions were demanding, he was as close to perfection as a manager as you could be, he had the lot.
He also had issues with this bubble he put around us, he obviously had issues with the board, so there was some kind of battle which didn’t go down well with the board. But in terms of the players, he was fantastic.