Guest columnist sees good times ahead for former club Derby
WHEN I won promotion to the Premier League with Derby in 2007, nobody fancied us. Even in the play-off final against West Brom, we started as the underdog. It meant we could go about our business on the quiet with no real hype or expectation. That helped us enormously.
Fast-forward eight years and things couldn’t be more different. I still live in the area so I know as well as anyone that promotion is the word on everyone’s lips. After two near misses, nothing less will do.
With that comes pressure, and new challenges. Teams will come to Pride Park with the sole aim of making life difficult for Derby. Can they deal with that frustration?
For us, it was all about team spirit and work ethic. There were no stars, no egos. Just 16 honest men who knew their roles and weren’t scared to get stuck in.
We won a ton of games 1-0, including that play-off final when we got absolutely battered. We weren’t the best side in the division but, with the organisation and grit that Billy Davies fostered, we just knew that we would be very, very difficult to beat.
Finding a bit of that resilience is key for Derby because everything else is in place. They’ve spent a lot of money in the transfer market. They’ve spent a lot of money on the facilities.The fanbase is tremendous. You’re guaranteed 25,000 season tickets before a ball has even been kicked, which tells you everything about the supporters.
Of course, the other big factor will be how quickly manager Paul Clement gets his belief and his ethos across to the players.
Will they understand what he wants? Will they suit the system? And how quickly will Paul himself adjust? Managing Derby in the Championship is very different to coaching Real Madrid in La Liga. All of those things take time and it’s why I don’t think too much significance should be attached to the fact Derby have drawn their first three games.
Personally, I think they can finally take that last step and, Cardiff aside, I hope they do. It’s a club steeped in tremendous history and to climb those steps at Wembley was an incredible honour for me, the kind of thing you dream about as a kid. Yes, the Premier League season was a disaster (we only took 11 points and got relegated) but we were totally unprepared as a club.
Now, everything is tailored to do what we couldn’t – turn Derby into an established Premier League club. And let’s face it, a club of that size should be.
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AS a former Birmingham player, I’m looking forward to this seewhat young Demarai Gray can do this seasin. The 19-year-old has got the talent to be a very special player. He's got terrific speed, terrific balance. And he can finish, which is the currency that all forward playeers are judge by. He was watched by almost every Premier Leagueclub last year and turned down a £5m move to Bournemouth to continue his developement at St. Andrews. If he does what he's capable of, an even bigger bis might be on the cards.