Sports reporter for the Rams' local paper offers his thoughts ahead of the Whites' clash with County this weekend
Ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Derby County, Chris Watson, a sports reporter and sub-editor for the Derby Telegraph, offers his thoughts on Wanderers’ opponents from a local perspective.
“For Derby, last season ended in massive disappointment, having occupied a top-six spot for much of the campaign, only to slip out of the play-off places on the final day.
“There were, of course, plenty of good moments during the season as, at one stage, the team looked set to challenge for automatic promotion - but they will have been largely forgotten about following the failure to reach the play-offs.
"This time around, again, they have to be aiming for automatic promotion or, at the least, a play-off place.
"I think only a top-six finish, if not better, would be considered a success, taking into account the past two seasons and subsequent financial backing from the board - but that's unlikely to be straightforward, with plenty of other teams hoping to challenge for promotion.
"Having challenged for the past two seasons, there's no reason why they can't do it again, though, of course, it's not that simple. We all know how tough a division the Championship is.
"With that in mind, the club have made a real statement of intent with the business they have done so far this summer.
"Darren Bent, with more than 100 Premier League goals to his name, has been joined on a permanent basis following a productive loan spell.
"Others with top flight and international pedigree have also arrived - Andreas Weimann, Chris Baird, Scott Carson and Alex Pearce.
"Then there's Tom Ince, who became the club's record signing when he joined from Hull City in a £4.75m deal, and Jason Shackell has rejoined Derby from Burnley to further bolster the defence.
"Striker Chris Martin meanwhile has been an integral part of Derby's success over the past two seasons, scoring 20-plus goals in successive campaigns and providing a focal point for the attack - he was sorely missed when he got injured in the second half of last term.
"England Under-21 midfielder Will Hughes could also be a key player for the Rams, having claimed a clean sweep of the club's player of the year awards for 2014/15. I'm sure some of the new arrivals will also have an important part to play.
"This summer also saw the arrival of Paul Clement in what will be his first head coach role, so I suppose it's a bit of a step into the unknown for him - but his experience working under Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Real Madrid will surely have prepared him well.
"Having achieved great success at some of Europe's top clubs, he will be hungry for more back on home soil, no doubt.
"Looking after to Saturday’s season opener, Derby won 2-0 on their previous visit to the Macron Stadium last season, but I don't think that will count for much this time around as there have been plenty of personnel changes on both sides since then.
"I think both sides will score, so I'll go for a 1-1 draw."
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