Derby County kept up their fine Championship form last night with a 2-0 win over Charlton Athletic at the iPro Stadium as they look to secure a return to the Premier League.
The Rams have been in good form of late and it looks as though one of their promotion rivals is going to have to do something special to stop the East Midlands club securing the title.
Lee Clarke takes a look at five reasons why they will go on and wrap up the title – at a canter!
1. Steve McClaren won’t allow his players to take their eyes off the ball
The former England boss, regardless of what people might think, is a grounded bloke and a good football man at that.
He knows the game inside out and he sees the Rams as ‘his club’, which can only be a promising thing for the future of Derby County.
After last season’s Play-Off Final heartbreak at the hands of QPR, everything McClaren says in the media is geared towards retaining focus and making sure that his players are aware of the job in hand.
He claims that whilst last season was a bit of fun, this campaign is all about making sure the club return to the top-flight for the first time since the 2008.
2. Loan players have made an already strong squad stronger.
At the start of the season if you had asked me which club possessed the strongest squad in the league I would have uttered the words Derby County.
The big-hitters of the squad, Jeff Hendrick, Craig Bryson, Chris Martin, Will Hughes and Richard Keogh all signed new long-term contracts in the summer after playing instrumental parts in guiding the club to a fourth place finish, and a play-off berth last year.
Add to that the Premier League experience of Darren Bent, Tom Ince and Jesse Lingard you have a squad that is arguably way too good for the Championship.
Should the Rams fail to gain promotion this season I am sure they will kick themselves, so to speak, given the magnitude of the players they have at their disposal.
3. Their last four fixtures are favourable.
Derby currently occupy top spot in the Championship but in the coming weeks they will face Middlesbrough, Watford, Wolves and Norwich in what look to be crucial fixtures in their quest for promotion glory.
Should they come through those matches with a sizeable points total they will probably already be on course for a top-two finish anyway, but if not you would have to fancy them based on their last four matches.
All of their last four fixtures are against teams who you could say will already be on their summer holidays by that point.
Blackpool will already be relegated barring a miracle, on current form Millwall could also be cut adrift, couple those games with a trip to Huddersfield and a home game against Reading on the last day and really you couldn’t hand pick four better matches to finish with.
4. The club is run in the right way
When Chief Executive Sam Rush announced that the club had parted company with Nigel Clough in September 2013 it seemed a strange decision.
Clough had been given very little money to spend and was responsible for bringing through some very good youngsters, giving them a chance to play first-team football.
As we all know football is a result based business and the Rams board were clearly not content with fighting off relegation year upon year and the axe fell on Clough.
Just 18 months later it appears to have been a masterstroke by the board to give Clough his P45 and hand Steve McClaren a chance to rebuild his reputation after an unconvincing stint at neighbours Nottingham Forest.
He hasn’t disappointed and seems to have the club running in the right direction and should they gain promotion it would be thoroughly deserved for both McClaren and the club.
5. They have the best strike force in the division
In Darren Bent, Derby County have a player who has been there and seen it all.
The Aston Villa player signed for the Rams on a loan deal until the end of the season in January and has since netted eight goals to rocket Derby to the Championship’s summit.
The former England international could easily still be doing a job for his parent club but a personal vendetta against him from former Villa boss Paul Lambert put a damper on those chances and he subsequently moved out on loan.
Villa’s loss is Derby’s gain, and Bent’s experience is proving crucial to a young squad and he appears to have found his scoring boots once more.
Couple Bent with Chris Martin who found the net on no fewer than 30 occasions last season and you have a real prolific partnership.
Martin is around a week away from full fitness and his return to the side could really put the finishing touches on the Rams’ march towards the top-flight.