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Season preview: Derby County

Season preview: Derby County
© PA Photos
Sports Mole takes a look at what the coming months could hold for Nigel Clough's Derby County in the Championship.

With the Championship season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over Derby County's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.

In:

Johnny Russell (From Dundee United, £700,000), Craig Forsyth (From Watford, £150,000), Lee Grant (From Burnley, Free), Chris Martin (From Norwich City, Free), John Eustace (From Watford, Free), Adam Smith (From Tottenham Hotspur, Loan)

Out:

Frank Fielding (To Bristol City, £200,000), Gareth Roberts (To Bury, Free), Ross Atkins (To Alfreton Town, Loan), Luke Adams (Released), Conor Doyle (To DC United, Loan), John Brayford (To Cardiff City, Undisclosed)

Last Season: 10th

Manager: Nigel Clough

Three key players:


Derby skipper Richard Keogh celebrates a goal on December 8, 2012© PA Photos
Richard Keogh - In the absence of captain and defender Shaun Barker, it was left to Republic of Ireland international Keogh to fill the leadership void. The 26-year-old did so admirably, particularly when you consider that he had a number of young players under his guidance. Such was his impact that he was voted the Player of the Season by both his teammates and Derby supporters. He played in every minute of every Championship clash, scoring three goals in the process. Clough will be hoping that his centre-back has a similar impact this time around.


Will Hughes, Derby County midfielder© PA Photos
Will Hughes - Ever since the midfielder was promoted to the senior squad in the 2011-12 campaign, he has had to deal with expectation. From the age of 16 he has been linked with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City - such is the belief in his ability. Although only 18, he will be even under more pressure to produce the goods over the coming months. He scored just two goals last term, but if he could add a few more, it could help to propel the Rams up the standings. Having said that, it may also prompt the bigger clubs to submit a bid for his services during the January transfer window.


Dundee United's Johnny Russell and St Mirren's Paul Dummet battle for the ball on December 30, 2012© PA Photos
Johnny Russell - It could be argued that any chance Derby had of reaching the playoffs last year were severely hampered by their away form - they scored just 22 times after all. The capture of Russell for £700,000 is a clear indication that Clough is only too aware that he needed to bolster his attacking options. The frontman hit 20 in all competitions last season, including his first ever Scottish Premier League hat-trick against Kilmarnock.

First game:, Blackburn Rovers (H), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says:

It would be fair to say that Derby did not get too many bums off seats on a regular basis last season. While their form at Pride Park was positive, as mentioned above it was their displays on the road that cost them dear. Clough has made some potentially positive additions so far, but as it stands, there is not enough strength in depth. If they avoid too many injuries and suspensions, then a halfway push is not beyond the realms of possibility. On the flip side, too much bad luck and they may very well be looking nervously over their shoulders down the home straight.

Predicted finish: 17th

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Close up of Derby manager Nigel Clough on December 1, 2012
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