TODD SURE ‘STRONGER’ STEVE CAN TAKE RAMS TO THE TOP

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

DERBY legend Colin Todd has backed come­back kid Steve McClaren to lead the Rams into the Premier League.

Signed by Brian Clough in 1971, the 66-year-old made over 300 ap­pear­ances for Derby, win­ning two First Di­vi­sion ti­tles, a PFA player of the year award and 27 caps for Eng­land.

Derby have rarely threat­ened to re­peat those glory days but after see­ing the Rams bounce back from last sea­son’s play-off fi­nal de­feat to surge clear at the Cham­pi­onship sum­mit, Todd says the club fi­nally have a man who can help them ful­fil their po­ten­tial.

“I’ve been hugely im­pressed by Steve,” said Todd, who, like McClaren, worked at the Base­ball Ground as as­sis­tant to Jim Smith. “After what hap­pened with Eng­land, he could have folded. But he’s come back a stronger per­son, with a stronger per­son­al­ity.

“Now Derby are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of that. He’s knit­ted to­gether a team who are play­ing with a lot of pur­pose. The play­ers have belief in Steve McClaren and the sup­port­ers have belief in Steve McClaren. He’s been very, very strong.

“You could see that men­tal­ity re­flected in the way Derby have bounced back. They didn’t de­serve to lose to QPR at Wem­b­ley and it must have hurt every­body. But it’s as if they’ve gone ‘Right, we’ve had a lit­tle bit of glory, now let’s keep the wheels rolling for next sea­son’.

“They look de­ter­mined not to en­ter the lot­tery of the play-offs and with Steve at the helm, I don’t see why they can’t fin­ish first or sec­ond. They’re cer­tainly good enough.”

Tricky

Todd, who spent a brief spell in charge of Derby in 2001-02 and is now man­ag­ing Dan­ish out­fit Ran­ders, also be­lieves McClaren will strengthen in Jan­uary.

“That’s the most im­por­tant thing,” he added. “Steve will as­sess his squad and say ‘Can I strengthen?’ And the an­swer is that yes, you can al­ways strengthen. It’s a hec­tic pe­riod right through to the end and you don’t want pro­mo­tion to be de­railed by in­juries or sus­pen­sions. So I think he will delve into the mar­ket, whether it’s loan or pur­chase.

“But it is tricky be­cause do you buy play­ers for now or do you start look­ing at Premier League qual­ity for next year? That’s a ques­tion only Steve can an­swer.”

And Todd is also con­vinced that for­mer club Bolton – with whom he won pro­mo­tion to the top flight in 1997 – will steer clear of dan­ger un­der new gaffer Neil Len­non.

“Like Derby, it’s a club that’s close to my heart,” said Todd. “I had great times at Bolton as a man­ager.The year we went up, we won pro­mo­tion with about five games to go and we even­tu­ally won the Cham­pi­onship as well.

“It’s great to see they’ve pulled away. If you look over the Christ­mas pe­riod, there’s al­ways one club that comes out of the pack and makes a surge to­wards the play-offs. It will hap­pen again this sea­son and it would be great if it was Bolton.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

THUMBS UP: Steve McClaren has got plenty of back­ing at Derby. In­set: Rams legend Colin Todd

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