View from the opposition: Steve McClaren is starting to pay Derby back

New Derby County manager Steve McClaren after a press conference at the iPro Stadium, Derby in Octob

New Derby County manager Steve McClaren after a press conference at the iPro Stadium, Derby in October 2016. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Derby season ticket holder Ken Pinney looks ahead to this afternoon's game at the iPro Stadium.

Are you happy with Steve McClaren's return – and the results?

Results, yes, but I still have reservations about how his previous spell in charge ended (McClaren failed to effectively address constant speculation linking him to the Newcastle job, which he eventually took shortly after being sacked. The issue was blamed for Derby's late-season collapse, which saw them miss out on a play-off spot). He should have clarified the situation. He did apologise to the fans on his return but that came a bit late for me. Having said that, there has been a 100pc improvement on the pitch – the team are playing without fear now and have been given more freedom.

Is there one particular area – or player – which has seen the benefit?

There's more than one – Tom Ince stands out like a sore thumb, Darren Bent has been given another chance. Bradley Johnson is another, and the manager has given young Max Lowe confidence - he's been like a ray of sunshine. McClaren has also got Alex Pearce playing – I don't think Jason Shackell (back from injury, previously ever-present) will get back in now.

Bradley Johnson was a big favourite at Norwich – how is he regarded at Derby?

He started off like wildfire and couldn't do anything wrong, then hit a bad spell. The previous manager didn't seem to help him and at the start of the season, he looked like he was totally lacking in confidence. I don't think they knew what to do with him and he had a spell out of the side – but now he has been rejuvenated under the new manager, he's settled into the role (holding midfielder), and looks like a new man. The team is playing better in general, too, which I think has helped him as well.

Most Read

Chris Martin is now at Fulham – did anyone see that move coming? He looked like he was doing well for you…

It was the previous manager's decision. I don't think he rated him. When everything was going well, he looked the bees knees (he scored 61 goals in three season for the Rams) but when things weren't, his body language on the pitch didn't look good and he could come across as a bit of a prima donna.

Who are your dangermen?

Tom Ince is the man on form at the moment, scoring four goals in two games.

Who would you consider to be City's dangermen?

Robbie Brady, perhaps - Derby still look susceptible to people cutting in from wide and I think any tricky winger can put them under a bit of pressure.

Where do you see Derby finishing this season?

They have a good chance of making the top six if they keep up their recent form. I think automatic promotion is out of reach, though. But they could still finish in a play-off spot, if don't get any more bad injuries and players like Bent keep figuring on a weekly basis. It could also depends on what happens in January - will McClaren tinker with the squad a bit? And there is still a question mark over what will happen with Martin (on season-long loan at Fulham, who have an option to buy - but could Derby try to recall him now McClaren is back?).

What about City – fancy their chances?

They seem to have lost a bit of direction at the moment and are going through a rocky patch. They were one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season but that first season down from the Premier League can be tough. I still think they will be there or thereabouts, unless this bad spell continues. It could depend on what happens with the manager. If they decide to change, there could be a turnaround in personnel, which always affects things. Will the board keep their nerve and let him manage? He was good enough to get them up last time.

Can't leave without a prediction…

I would be surprised if Derby won but they are playing well enough not to lose. I don't think they are quite strong enough yet to keep on winning every week - they're still work in progress. But they now look capable of scoring, so I'll go for a 1-1 draw.