Derby County Flourishing Under Steve McLaren

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Over the past few years, it has looked like that Derby County would once again be a Premier League side having made the play-offs in the 2013/14 season as well as the 2015/16 Championship campaign.

The Rams also finished just outside the play-off spot in the 2012/13 season (10th, 8 points off) and the 2014/15  term (8th, 1 point off).

Derby have not been in the top-flight since the 2007/08 campaign when they finished with the worst points total in Premier League history; a measly 11 points and one win in 38 games.

However, the good times are seemingly returning to Pride Park following the return of Steve McClaren.

Unsuccessful spells under Paul Clement and Nigel Pearson meant that Steve McClaren had some rebuilding to do in October as the Rams were languishing in 20th place. Now they sit 5th on the league standings.

So how has McClaren rebuilt an abject side in just two months?

Firstly, McClaren has brought back confidence to a team that have lacked zest since the start of the season. Some might see the former Newcastle boss as “the wally with the brolly”, but to the team, he is a highly motivated gaffer capable of getting players back to their best.

At the time of writing, Derby County are on a six-game winning streak which indicates the level of confidence oozing out of the team.

Following a barren run between August and September when Derby had not won in six games, one can understand that the spirit would be void after such a poor run of form. However, their recent performance shows how McClaren has been able to wipe the slate clean and get his players back to winning ways.

Back in February when the club’s owner, Mel Morris, sacked Paul Clement stating that the side was not playing “the Derby County Way”. This left many to ponder about the team’s predominant style of play.

Well, a 3-0 thrashing of their local and bitter rivals Nottingham Forest might just be the Derby County style of play; all brought in by the arrival of McClaren who has lost just once in his 2nd spell at the club.

When Pearson took the reins at Derby County , fans were optimistic due to his success at Leicester. However, things did not work out that way as Derby hit rock-bottom.

The Rams were still looking to play football in “the Derby County Way”. As stated earlier, they may have found it with McClaren, who has released many players from the shackles they had on under Pearson.

Players such as Tom Ince and Will Hughes seem to be back in the form that had the big boys sniffing around them, trying to capture their respective signatures.

Tom Ince is trying to live up to a big name in the footballing world, having followed his father, Paul Ince, into the professional game.

Ince can run at defenders without fear and can glide past them with ease. Since McClaren’s return to Derby, Ince has been a key figure as he has started every game for the Rams and scored 5 goals.

He looks lively and free in the 4-3-3, just as he was at Blackpool in the 2012/13 season in their push for promotion.

Another player who has thrown the shackles away is the man who seems to have been around since 1970, Will Hughes.

Hughes made his debut at the age of 16 and has been impressive ever since. Hughes’ creativity and attacking threat has been unleashed this season after returning from a cruciate ligament injury which ruled him out for the most part of last season.

He has gone from strength to strength since his return with a passing percentage of over 80%, three assists and a spectacular goal against Nottingham Forest. Steve McClaren is looking to get the most out of his young starlet.

Although Derby County have been impressive going forward, McClaren has also made sure to tighten the defence. The former Magpies boss has established an experienced back five of Alex Pearce, Marcus Olsson, Chris Baird, Scot Carson (goalkeeper) and more importantly captain Richard Keogh.

Keogh is a defender who wears his heart on his sleeve and will keep fighting till the end. This attitude has culminated in McClaren’s side keeping seven clean sheets since his return.

Verdict

Derby in the past have slipped up near the end of the season in recent years, but this might just be Derby’s year to show the Championship they are done with it and make a return to the English top flight.

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