The Opposition View - Derby
1. How seriously have you been taking the cup this season? Do you think McClaren values it?
Yes, I think he does value the cup, as he did the League Cup as well. 2 reasons for that. I think he genuinely wants to do well in every competition, plus and probably most importantly while we are playing so well, he just wants to keep winning runs going. And at the end of the day we are both only 2 games away from Wembley.
2. If you could either have promotion to the Premier League or an FA Cup victory, which one would you take?
Sadly the only answer 99% of football fans would give now days is promotion. Its the bread and butter of any football club to be as successful in the league as possible so getting the top table in english football has got to be the ultimate aim. I say sadly though and I'm showing age now, but i grew up with the classic cup finals of the 70's and 80's and for me there is still no competition that comes close to it.
3. Cup talk aside, how impressed have you been with the way Derby have been playing this season? Why do you think there has been so much improvement over the past two years?
Considering how last season finished for us with the heartbreak at Wembley, the start of this season was quite a slow stuttering one. And just when we thought we were going on a good unbeaten run we would lose a stupid game i.e Wigan at home and then Leeds away. But from December we have kicked on and found extra gears, and some of football now is quite staggering at times.
To answer the second part of this question would take a whole page in itself, but in short for me personally the appointment of Sam Rush as new CEO was a masterstroke. He was the one that made the decision to dismiss Nigel Clough, brought in Steve MaClaren and his team and generally transformed how the club conducted itself. Also our American owners for allowing Sam and his team to bring in better quality players. Its really been a snowball effect actually.
4. Steve McClaren has been talked about for a few Premier League jobs in recent months - how good a job has he done and how confident are you in keeping him for another few years?
Yes it seems every time a premier league club is looking for a new manager his name is mentioned at the moment, which just underlines how good a job he is doing at our club. I think it is working both ways as well. He had a damaged reputation in this country with what happened with the National team and then his short but disastrous spell at Notts Forest. People are now realising how good a coach he actually is, you've only got to ask Man Utd and Boro fans and they will tell you. He says he wants to see the job out here and why not, although if we don't go up this season and Newcastle are still sniffing around in the summer then the lure of the Premier League might be too much.
5. What did you make of your business in the recent transfer window? Would you have brought any more in?
We had a very good transfer window with 5 main additions to the squad in the likes Raul Albentosa, a highly regarded centre back from spain. And 3 excellent loan signings in Darren Bent, Tom Ince and Jesse Lingard. Plus the signing of Leeds Utd captain Stephen Warnock. We now have a squad most clubs would kill for and at least 2 players for every position.
6. Which Derby player(s) are really excelling so far this season?
There is 1 stand out player for me this season and that is Will Hughes. He has just been on a different level. He has that special ability to dictate the pace of a game, and has the sweetest of left feet. With over 100 Championship games under his belt and a regular at England u21 level already. All this and more at just 19 is quite remarkable.
7. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
To be honest I haven't seen a lot of Reading this season and I missed the Capital One cup game down at the iPro. However I've always quite liked the look of Federici in goal and also Alex Pearce in defence. But to be brutally honest I dont think any of them would make our squad at the moment.
8. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from McClaren on Saturday?
This is an interesting question. We normally play a 4-3-3 with Chris Martin as the focal point of the attack. He has been an ever present this season and we've never really had a plan B for when things weren't going our way, hence why Bent was brought in. In the last round MaClaren tried 3-5-2 in the first half and a diamond formation in the second half. Add to this that Martin was injured on Tuesday night against Bournemouth and probably would've been rested anyway then Bent will definitely start, and Tom Ince is cup tied so there will be a few changes. We are also expecting the long awaited return of George Thorne who was injured in pre season after being our main transfer target last summer. But it will still be a strong team no matter who plays.
9. Prediction for the game?
If we play as we can then there will only be one winner. But its the Cup and thats the magic of it, you just never know. One thing i don't want is a replay, we have enough fixtures this month as it is. Were expecting a decent crowd on Saturday as well so it should be a cracking atmosphere as it seems to be for every home game at the moment.