Derby County have started this season tremendously currently sitting in third position after 24 matches. The Rams are only three points off first and two points from an automatic promotion spot. Steve McClaren should be commended for the job he has done since joining in September 2013. Last season he guided them to third place, only to be defeated by a last minute Bobby Zamora goal in the play-off final. This season, he has done extremely well to avoid any sort of play-off hangover that is so common in the Football League.
Derby have been one of the best teams to watch in the Championship and are solid in defence whilst capable of scoring plenty of goals. The club are certainly on the up and have just recorded back-to-back victories over Leeds and Birmingham. The upcoming trip to second place Ipswich could well prove to be the biggest fixture of the season for the Rams but even then, the style of football and squad assembled make it hard not to envisage a Premier League return.
The club will be desperate for a return to the top flight and right the wrongs of an utterly disastrous last visit. The last time they played in the Premier League was in the 2007/8 season, where they broke all sorts of records for the wrong reasons. They only managed 11 points which is the lowest ever in the top flight and only won once all season. Since returning to the Championship, they have found it tough with 10th place their highest finish since last season’s play-off heartache.
But Steve McClaren has helped to turn things around and they have a squad of real quality at this level. They play an exciting and fantastic brand of football, which allows them to keep the ball very well and look to get forward as much as possible.
Starting from the back, Lee Grant has had a terrific season so far, making crucial saves at crucial times. A top quality goalkeeper is vital at this level and he will continue to play a big role in Derby’s promotion campaign. In defence, Richard Keogh leads from the back and has been a key component of this side since joining from Coventry in 2012.
Keogh is also captain in the absence of the injured Shaun Barker and always puts his body on the line – something you want from a centre back. Summer singing Cyrus Christie has also impressed since joining and although he needs to improve his defensive work, going forward is where he is a threat.
On-loan Liverpool 19-year-old Jordan Ibe has been a great addition to the team. He looks extremely threatening on the wings and has tremendous attacking instincts that has allowed him to score five times so far. Also a very quick player, Ibe has been a stand out performer.
Possibly the best player at the club is another youngster in Will Hughes. At just 19, Hughes has been a regular for the past couple of seasons, already playing over 100 league games. He is a centre midfielder that can play box-to-box and control the game in the middle of the park. He is extremely comfortable on the ball and a fine passer. Already an England under-21 regular, Hughes looks like he will have a fine future in the game and Derby might find it hard to keep hold of him in the next couple of years. But for now, Hughes will continue to be key for the club.
Up front, Chris Martin has been the main goalscorer, with 14 league goals to his name. He has been a revelation since joining in 2013, scoring 20 goals last campaign. A big man with a keen eye for goal, Martin has the tools to succeed at a higher level.
With an extremely talented squad of players at McClaren’s disposal who are performing exceedingly well, surely this is the year for a Derby County return to the Premier League.