So. Have you recovered from what happened last season yet?
To be honest, I got over the play off defeat pretty quickly. We may have played QPR off the park for 89 minutes but we just weren’t good enough to either defend resolutely enough or take our chances.
In any case, even the Wembley defeat, as traumatic as it was, could never blank out those great memories from such an exhilarating season. I’m not going to forget experiencing those victories against Forest & Brighton for a long time.
Happy with what’s happened over the summer?
Pretty much. The World Cup was a nice distraction from the initial lack of signings & what seemed like a rather desperate pursuit of a certain West Brom midfielder. There was also the annoyance of Burnley trying to steal Mr Bryson.
Having said that, once the news of the contract extensions for most of our key players kept on rolling in, my mood lightened somewhat. The recruitment of a cadre of apparently talented youngsters to bolster the Under 21 squad was also a positive development. I’ll take a pop & say that Ivan Calero will be in the first team squad before long (maybe even challenging for a spot on the right of the front three).
The eventual signing of Thorne suggested we were finally willing to spend a bit of money & show some ambition. His injury was a shock but I was more upset for him than worried about the impact on the side. Perhaps my view about that has changed a bit now.
Let’s not forget Cyrus Christie. I think he’s an important signing & he might give us a different dimension going forward on the right side.
How do you think the team will look like for the first game against Rotherham?
The formation is clearly going to be the same as last season (4-1-2-2-1), with a holding midfielder, two attacking midfielders, two wide forwards & a central striker. McClaren’s tinkered with different formations in pre-season but this one appears to be the the best fit. Let’s hope the other Championship teams haven’t worked out how to play against it.
I’d expect the team to be the same as the Rangers friendly, perhaps with Bucko returning after his hip flexor problem. That means Will Hughes in the crucial “Eustace role”.
Anything you’re worried about?
Like most Derby fans, I think the Thorne injury has left a hole in the side that probably needs to be filled by a loan from one of McClaren’s mates in the Premier League. In the meantime, I think Hughes can do a good job. When it comes down to it, I’d much rather have him in the side than being wasted on the bench. Much as I revere Mr Eustace, he’s not getting any younger. I think he’ll still have a part to play this season, though.
Apart from that, we definitely need a Plan B in case Martin gets injured or loses form (or we need to change our game). Is Leon Best the answer? Maybe. He certainly impressed me in the Blackburn game last season.
What do you feel positive about?
I trust McClaren, Simmo & Eric to continue what they did so amazingly last season. I feel confident that Martin will continue to score goals. I think Jeff will have a great, influential season. I think the South Stand will dramatically improve the atmosphere & have a real positive effect on our team.
Finally. What are your predictions?
Wigan Champions, Derby second, Watford to win the play off final. Martin top scorer, followed by Jeff. Calero, Bennett & Hanson to break into the first team. Sammon sold to a minor Scottish team in January.