Derby County had promotion to the top flight within their sights last season, before the play-off final was brought to an abrupt end as Bobby Zamora netted a late winner to send Queens Park Rangers into the promised land.
It has been a common occurrence to see teams storm the division one year, only to struggle the next, with Watford a prime example. Having lost the 2013 final in extra-time, pundits were labelling them favourites for promotion, only for a dreadful run of form see them stall in mid-table, and end the following season with a different manager in charge.
Derby are in a similar situation now, with their promotion credentials as strong as any other team, but an unremarkable start to the season, having claimed nine points from their first six games.
Many believe this is down to opposition managers working out how to play against the promotion favourites, and Derby first team coach Paul Simpson has admitted much the same, claiming that visiting teams are treating the Rams with more respect.
Speaking to the official Derby website, Simpson said: “What we are finding is that everybody is treating us with a bit more respect than last season.
“Clubs are coming and knowing that they can’t allow us to play, they are making it difficult.
“Ipswich made it very difficult for us; we’ve had it in other games: Fulham did it for 60 minutes before we grounded them out and ended up coming out with an empathic victory.
“It’s something we are going to have to deal with, we are going to have to learn to deal with it even better than we have done so far.”
Derby wowed audiences last season, with their dominant displays of passing and attacking football blowing away the opposition. However, a new style of play is being worked on this season, with a need for patience and thoughtfulness to grind stubborn opponents down.
“When teams come and make it difficult, we have got to not get frustrated, but keep playing with a positive attitude, but keep calm about it,” he continued.
“It’s something that, I’m sure, the fans are finding is different as well. The supporters, who are turning up in their numbers, they’re seeing a different type of football game.
“We have to be patient, we have to keep moving the ball from side to side and just grind teams down eventually.
“Over the season, if we can keep calm and keep patient, as a whole football club, I’m sure we will reap the rewards.”
Derby will be looking to test their new style on Blackburn Rovers this week, with the Lancashire club hosting the Rams on Wednesday.