McClaren’s team are currently second in the league table with 54 points from 28 matches, level on points with leaders Bournemouth and second only on goal difference.
Ward, who has been an important player for Derby this season, has now revealed a key factor behind the team’s drive this campaign.
“Failure always spurs you on a bit more,” The Sun quotes the 28-year-old as saying. “We had a great season last year — and the manager came in and gave us a kick up the backside.
“There’s a good buzz in the team. We are in better shape this year and, hopefully, he can take us one step further and get us to where everyone wants to play.”
Derby were close to gaining promotion at the end of last season - very, very close indeed.
The Rams finished third in the Championship table and then reached the playoff final, only to lose it to Queens Park Rangers to a late winner.
It came as a huge disappointment, and credit must be given to McClaren for lifting up his players’ confidence and morale.
Derby are arguably the strongest team in the Championship this season, and one would have to say that they deserve to go up based on the way they have performed so far.
However, it is far from guaranteed that the Rams will finish in the top two. With Bournemouth still going strong much against the odds, and Middlesbrough, Ipswich Town and Brentford all close, it will not be easy for Derby.