There’s more optimism in the air than usual as Nigel Clough approaches his fifth full season in charge. Here I look back at the last time a Rams side managed to achieve promotion out of the Championship in the 2006/07 campaign.
The Rams finished 3rd and, as I’m sure you’ll remember, were promoted via the play-offs. 84 points was the team’s tally.
The squad was very well equipped, consisting of experience and some impressive youth. Here is a then versus now featuring the key players of then and the ones who have the potential to make the difference this time around, you decide who you’d prefer.
Stephen Bywater V Lee Grant
Bywater arrived from West Ham with a point to prove after limited opportunities in the capital. His first season with the Rams turned ended in glory at Wembley but his steadiness throughout the campaign was key, only two teams kept more clean sheets than Derby in the 2006/07 campaign. An understanding with his defenders helped him, hopefully Grant can develop that this season.
Grant exited Burnley, where he showed precisely why he should not be underestimated in this league, to join Derby this summer. I feel he has the ability, as shown through some consistent years at Hillsborough and Turf Moor, to return and impress. I was very pleased with his return. The former Owl did play a minor part in the club’s 2007 promotion, playing seven times.
Darren Moore V Richard Keogh
Moore was a strong defender not to be messed with in the days of the promotion season. As one of the most experienced members on that side he was also one of the most vocal players on the pitch. The defender achieved his fourth promotion to the Premier League and first with the Rams.
Keogh boasts similar aspects to Moore’s game, the ex-Coventry man is quite experienced compared to a largely youthful side and is always in dialogue with his team mates. A real ‘Mr Consistent’ figure in the heart of the defence, he’s a man that Clough can rely on to rally the side forward.
Matt Oakley V Craig Bryson
Oakley was a steal on a free transfer from Southampton and wore the captain’s armband to great success. He was never seen strolling about, the skipper had good work-rate.
Bryson is a real box-to-box midfielder that could run all day. Ever-present in the current team, the Scotsman is pivotal to Clough’s plans and I suspect Bryson will continue to excel – it can’t be long before a couple of top flight clubs come knocking on his door.
Giles Barnes V Will Hughes
Barnes was the Rams’ wonder kid of that year. He had an abundance of pace but, sadly, the promotion year was to be his last successful period with Derby – injuries haven’t been kind to him since.
Hughes possesses the potential to go extremely far. A tremendous passer of the ball and superb vision, the youngster played in 35 league matches last season – he wouldn’t have been able to do that in a Premier League first-team side and Will knows that. Clough has put plenty of faith in him, and rightly so.
Steve Howard V Johnny Russell
Howard was instrumental in Derby’s success. The former Luton striker was a strong bully for defences, often using his brain rather than pace to beat them. But, most of all, a return of 16 league goals helped the club massively.
Russell seems to have the aspects required to hit goals this season, however it won’t be easy delivering that in a tough league. His pace, positioning and finishing will hopefully produce the goods.
Finally, below are some videos to remind you of the promotion of 2007 and whet your appetite ahead of the new campaign.
Tomorrow there’s a preview of the season-opener against Blackburn. If you have missed any of this week’s Countdown To Kick-Off specials, just head over to the home page at www.derbycountyfan.com and scroll through.