Derby County will start this season with an abundance of ex Premier League stars, together with much of the squad that so nearly reached the play-offs last term. But for a disastrous run of form throughout March, Steve McLaren’s side would have found themselves firmly situated in the top 6, and had a shot at top flight football once again.
The fluent strikeforce that scored 33 goals between them last season will return for another crack at glory. Chris Martin broke into the Scotland squad during his best Championship season, and partner Darren Bent, who has now made his loan move permanent from Aston Villa, has by far the biggest pedigree in the league, which should come with goals. Another marquee signing made by Paul Clement is former loanee Tom Ince. The wing wizard scored 11 goals in his 18 game stint at the iPro, but was recalled by parent club Hull City because of an injury crisis that eventually saw the Humberside club. He will now be able to astonish the Derby faithful on a regular basis, knowing that his future is firmly tied in Derbyshire.
Injuries to George Thorne and Shaun Barker ruled them out for much of the season, but both have stated that they are determined to stick and fight for their places this time around. Former Rams captain Barker, certainly has the ability to return to the starting XI but you d wonder whether his injury will hold up to competitive football on a regular basis after being out for so long. On the other hand, Thorne has extremely tough competition for a place in the heart of midfield. Jeff Hendrick, Will Hughes and Craig Bryson all consolidated their places in the line-up with spectacular performances that earns each a place in their countries respective international set ups.
At the back, Derby fell at the final hurdle last time out, Spaniard Raul Albentosa presents aerial expertise that can be useful in both boxes. Richard Keogh captained the side magnificently but some supporters may blame the Irishman for their slip up. Finally Cyrus Christie had an excellent debut season with the Rams making the right back spot his own as he settled into his responsibilities. He will need to keep up his attacking overlaps as well as staying focused on the other parts of his game. Some slight tweaking with the addition of Alex Pearce means that Derby have the experience not to have a repeat of last season, while they still maintain the magical attacking play that troubled almost every rearguard In the League last season.