Another interesting season ahead for Derby County

General view at Pride Park

Derby County fans will be heading into the new season wondering if their club will ever make a return to the Premier League.

After three consecutive seasons coming close to promotion, Derby supporters will be hoping for a change of fortune, and that the squad will be good enough to sustain a promotion challenge throughout the long season ahead.

And much will depend on the stewardship of Nigel Pearson. The manager, appointed at the end of May, won the second tier with Leicester in 2014, and has taken his time assessing the squad as he plans to lead Derby's promotion charge.

This time 12 months ago, Derby had already made five new signings, but they have yet to add to their squad so far this transfer window. And spending £25 million through the last campaign seems to be having a bearing on this window's activity. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some players move on, with two main midfielders Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes linked with exits, before there are any new arrivals - defender Kenneth Otigba from Heerenveen and West Brom winger Callum McManaman have been mentioned as possible targets.

Newcastle United, Norwich City and Aston Villa, who were all relegated last season, are favourites for promotion, and those sides have flexed already their financial muscles this transfer window. Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton also look strong contenders for promotion.

But Derby’s squad is bolstered by a superb blend of potential -  the likes of Tom Ince and Hughes - alongside the experienced Darren Bent. Bradley Johnson and Scott Carson have both also been part of clubs that have previously achieved promotion to the Premier League.

Automatic promotion looks unlikely this coming season, with the only way up probably through the play-offs. Pearson has the pedigree, but it just depends on whether the club's owners provide him with the tools required to do the job. Another interesting season ahead for Derby.

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