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Previewing Fulham at Derby County: three questions with Rams Corner

This season hasn't started out the way we wanted it to at all. As we sit down with Rams Corner we discuss whether this is the time things can improve.

Laurence Griffiths

Cottagers Confidential: Fulham have had about the worst start imaginable to their season. How do you think Derby County has started so far?

Rams Corner: Derby have had an okay start, nothing yet has measured up to the dizzy heights of last season's remarkable run. In the first couple of games, the defence looked solid but, away at Charlton, looked sloppy and that was costly. Meanwhile, in midfield, where the Rams play a holding midfielder and two more advanced central midfielders, Steve McClaren has found it difficult to find a settled team after the club's £2 million plus signing George Thorne suffered a terrible injury days after signing. That holding midfield position is pivotal to how the team plays in the 4-3-3.

Having started with a bit of a stutter and not with the same sharpness I have seen, it appears, on the face of it, that the club has struggled, which is true, however it is early days and with time on the pitch comes more sharpness. The success (and near absolute joy) of last season has meant huge expectations this time around. I have faith in Steve McClaren, who seems to have a great bunch of staff working with him, to get the team settled and playing.

CC: As and American outsider, I always liked Steven McClaren and thought it was interesting that he was taking jobs overseas rather than facing the criticism in England (which was unwarranted in my opinion). How do you and the other Derby County Supporters feel about him?

RC: When Nigel Clough was sacked, the vast majority of fans, including myself, couldn't believe it and thought it was wrong. Clough had finally, after difficult times on tight budgets and selling anybody remotely good, got a good, competitive side, yet was barely given any time to excel. In dark times, he steadied the rocking ship.

Steve McClaren came in swiftly after Clough's departure and, naturally, fans were initially skeptical, not helped by our rivals Nottingham Forest's short experience of him and the ridicule received after the failure with England. Soon it became apparent that Mac, with his contacts in the game and highly-regarded work on the training ground, was a wonderful choice. Under his stewardship, the team has played some cracking football. Clearly, spells abroad have done him well and it is always interesting when an Englishman makes that leap abroad. Maybe more should follow suit.

The fans love him and will not forget the memorable matches he gave us last season, including a 5-0 thumping over rivals Forest.

CC: Three games into the season has anything surprised you? Who do you peg to go up and go down?

RC: I'm never surprised with the Championship anymore. It is such an unpredictable division and therefore a joy for the neutral. Anyone can beat anyone and there is such high entertainment, dare I say more than the Premier League!

Wigan, Watford and my beloved Rams are the teams I believe will be up there at the end of the season, as well as the relegated teams from the Premier League, who I can't see being anywhere other than at least the top ten. Looking at other clubs, Middlesbrough and perhaps even Wolves are clubs I think are well-placed outsiders.

At the other end of the table, it is difficult to look beyond Blackpool. I reckon Huddersfield and Leeds will also be among the stragglers.

CC: If you could guess at a lineup and a scoreline, that'd be great.

RC: Predicted line-up Grant; Christie, Buxton, Keogh, Forsyth; Mascarell, Bryson, Hendrick; Ward, Martin, Russell.

Score: It is always tough to predict at this time of the season. I expect a tough game for both sides and surely Fulham will settle soon. I'll go for 1-1.