What have you made of Derby's start to the season?
On the whole pretty good. We’ve been brilliant away from home albeit against teams who are likely to struggle in the league. The home form has been poor, but I think it will be just a matter of time before we turn it around at Pride Park. Jeff Hendrick getting injured and being out for 3 months has soured what has been a solid base to build off and start a play-off charge. We can be a very good team, but are still very young and a little naïve.
The reason we have done well away from home is because teams feel they have to impress their home fans, and when we have kept the ball for large periods frustrating them, the opposition tends to become more open and we have been able to pick them off. However at Pride Park teams have been more defensive and have been happy not to have the ball, leaving us to just pass it around not carrying much of a threat.
Still as we are a young team I think they will learn through out the season when to be more direct at home, as we have the talent in the team now to hurt opposition.
We're used to seeing Derby in the lower reaches of the Championship but they've made an impressive start to the season, what's been the difference?
We’ve built on the young players brought into the side last season, players like Will Hughes and Hendrick are improving with the experience gained. We also finally have, not one but two fit strikers who seem to know where the net is (which we haven’t had for years).
The back four are also relatively settled, even though there are still issues there. It seems that all the years Clough has been given, his vision is finally coming to fruition, we have attempted to play ‘good football’ the last two seasons without a cutting edge, now it seems the players are learning and growing together.
Will Hughes is a young player that was linked with plenty of Premier League clubs over the summer. How good is he and is he ready for the top division?
The fact he carried us for vast parts of last season when he was just 17, playing in the centre of midfield (arguably the toughest position to play as a youngster) underlines his incredible ability. The reason all of a sudden our attempted ‘good football’ is now looking effective is in large parts down to just how fast he can read the game and pick a pass. His thought process seems quicker than anyone else’s in the Championship.
There is no doubt with the right guidance he could be an England star. But there is still a long way for him to go. He is still pretty light weight and frail (not that he ever backs out of a challenge) and his performances still aren’t as consistent as what they would need to be in the top tier of the Premiership. I think at least another season in the Championship under the guidance of Clough would be the best thing for him.
But if I was a Premiership big boy I would try and snap him up now, even though he probably wouldn’t break into any of their starting XI’s for at least a couple of years. Although he would probably be fine right now at someone like Fulham etc – but I think in the long run he can play at a higher level than Fulham. He is also a hard worker and not one to cause problems (He did very well on his A-levels and is a bright lad from a good family).
What are your best memories of Derby against Reading?
I don’t have too many TBH, as in recent years you have definitely had one over us. Even though we led twice, I remember being relatively happy with the 2-2 draw we got at the Madejski Stadium in 2011.
And the worst?
I could pick from a number, although none have been particularly gutt-wrenching. Probably the game at the Madejski when we were last in the Premiership. It was very tight and could have gone either way, before Doyle pinched it. It didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but even a point would have been one twelfth of our end of season points total.
In the return fixture I wanted Reading to stay up, so was quite content with the 4-0 thrashing, by then any belief of getting a point had long gone from my hopes.
Who should Reading fans be wary of on Saturday?
Hughes is well documented, but if he starts (has many injury issues) and is on form, Jamie Ward can be a real handful.
Anyone that Derby fans are fearful of?
Drenthe frightens the life out of me if he finds form playing at this level, although I am unaware how well he has adjusted to the Championship.
1-0 to Reading. Think you are just the sort of team we won’t be able to break down, and our one weak area is at centre back, so we always tend to concede at least one.
Any tips for fans heading to Pride Park?
Probably always best to go by train as parking is overpriced for away fans, and the train station is nice and close to the ground. Other than a Beefeater, there aren’t too many pubs near the ground, so for a pre-match pint you maybe best getting one nearer town, although the Beefeater is fine and quite friendly.
Enjoy your trip, and make sure you pay your respect to the Clough and Taylor statue at Pride Park, even if you didn’t like Clough’s team’s, he was one of a kind and I would love to see how he would’ve pissed all over ‘modern football’ and all the suits today, think he probably would’ve driven to Brussels and given Blatter a slap.
Thanks very much to Pete for his thoughts, and don't forget we'll have a full roundup of the match on the website.