The Opposition View - Derby
1. The play-off final would obviously have left some scars, we felt the similar pain three years ago - did you expect to bounce back from it as well as you have?
To lose any match the way we did would've been tough, but to lose the most important game of the season in that manner was incredibly gutting for the fans and the club as a whole. Fortunately for the Rams we now have a seriously good set up and all through the summer confidence has been high that we would go one better this term. After a sluggish start we are now finding the form that made us the force we were last season.
2. Even before the season started, what were you expectations and have they changed at all?
As I eluded to in question 1, there is a real positivity about the place these days so yes expectations are high this season and I've seen nothing yet to change my mind. Last season we came in under the radar so to start this season as favourites is a new pressure for the players to cope with, one I'm hoping they will handle and embrace.
3. What did you make of your recent transfer window? Any more players that you felt you needed?
Our transfer window was quite a strange one. We spent all summer chasing one major target in George Thorne who then immediately got injured and is out until next year. We did manage to sign a few other players, notably Cyrus Christie from Coventry who is already making an impact. The main business was done with the core members of our current squad who were all secured to long term deals, another sign of how things are being 'done right' now.
4. How good a job has Steve McClaren done at Derby? Why has he succeded in a short space of time, compared to Clough, who couldn`t?
What McClaren has done in such a short space of time has been nothing short of amazing, although even he was the first to admit that there wasn't a lot wrong with the squad he inherited. What Clough achieved in the circumstances he was given should never be forgotten. From trimming the squad and buying players on a shoestring to changing the way the team played which was the basis of what we are seeing today. The downside of Clough's regime was it became too safe and never looked like we were going anywhere. McClaren was brought in too take us to that next level, which was a risk considering how he failed so badly at Forest. The risk so far has paid off.
5. Which Derby player(s) do you expect to have a big season?
2 players who I think could have very big seasons are Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes. Although at the moment they are battling out for the same position in the team, such is the strength we currently have in midfield. Hughes at 19 is already a regular at England U21 level and has amassed over 100 league appearances. Very big things are sure to happen to him. Hendrick is a full Republic Of Ireland international and already has his name in Rams folklore with 2 goals against our local rivals Notts Forest.
6. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
You do have some good players at Reading but i have always liked Glenn Murray. A striker with his strike rate are a rarity at this level. We have one in Chris Martin but he is the one player we can not afford to lose and we need a quality back up.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from McClaren on Saturday?
If everyone is fit from the international break then I would expect an unchanged team from the draw against Milwall. The only change he might possibly make is on the left where the young Liverpool loanee Jordon Ibe has really impressed but has also shown his inexperience at this level. Johhny Russell would easily fill his role though.As for system, that never changes, with a flat back 4 with 2 full backs that like to bomb forward, a holding midfielder and then the rest of the midfield and striker that like to interchange positions if they can get their passing game going.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
If we can carry on with our recent form (Millwall game not included) then we should have enough to come away with the spoils. Although when I checked up on the last time we won at the Madejski and found out it was way back in 2005 then you can never take anything for granted. Only now we are no longer looking at bogey grounds and stats and hoping for the best, something special is happening at Derby these days.