Season Preview: Derby County
A success or a failure? How to sum up Derby's last season. So much happened in the course of 10 months. From the early season sacking of Nigel Clough to the upturn in form under Steve McClaren to the failure to beat 10-man QPR in the play-off final at Wembley. Despite the magnificent football Derby produced for much of the season there will undoubtedly be a lingering disappointment over Derby as the new season begins. Had they been more ruthless at Wembley back in May they would now be rubbing shoulders with Manchester City and the like. Instead, it is the hard slog of the 46 game Championship season once again. If McClaren can rid Derby of the pre-season hangover which seems to dog many teams which fall short in the play-off's then there is every chance that Derby can go one step better and even challenge for automatic promotion. The long term injury suffered by big money summer signing George Thorne will be a major blow for the Rams in their bid but they still have every chance of being in the promotion shake up.
Derby has been a great healing ground for Steve McClaren has he attempts to rebuild his reputation in England following his ill-fated spell as National team manager eight years ago. A failed spell at Nottingham Forest four years ago along with a disappointing second spell at FC Twente left McClaren as an afterthought as a manager in this country. However Derby, where he once served as assistant manager under Jim Smith, has been the perfect fit and he looks set at some stage to return to the Premiership in the future.
In: Jonathan Mitchell (Newcastle Utd), George Thorne (West Brom), Cyrus Christie (Coventry City), Zak Whitbread (Leicester City), Ivan Calero (Atletico Madrid)
Loans In: Leon Best (Blackburn Rovers)
Out: Ben Davis (Sheffield Utd), Adam Legzdins (Leyton Orient), James O'Connor (Walsall), James Bailey (Barnsley), Callum Ball (St Mirren)
Derby's success this season depends very much on how they react to coming so close to promotion last season. Teams that have come close to promotion in the past have often struggled to recover but the fact Derby's success was unexpected last season might give them an advantage in combating this problem. They have every chance of going one step better this season.