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Looking forward to 03/04 - 08/08/2003

On a personal note, itís not been the best of pre-seasons, although Iím now fit and raring to go. I had 90 minutes in the reserves against Eastwood Town, and not unexpectedly, I was a bit stiff. Iíve been having treatment on my back from the chiropractor and although itís a been a bit sore, Iím not faraway from first team selection against Stoke.

The pre-season has been very promising, the boys have played very well, and the victory against Mallorca was well deserved. OK, we also did well this time last year Ė and the season turned out to be very disappointing. All I can say is that the club has been through the mixer, weíve a now got a change of manager, thereís been plenty of player movement, the youngsters are now that little more experienced and the pressure isnít quite as intense as last season. When I talk about the pressure, donít get me wrong, we fully expect to be up there fighting for Premiership football Ė whether itís a top two finish or the play-offís. But last year other clubs raised their games when they played us, we were the big boys just down from the Premiership Ė and that mantle has been passed on to West Brom, West Ham, and Sunderland. To be fair, I donít think we handled the pressure very well, but weíre all learnt Ė and after 18 years in the game, I also learnt lessons form last season.!

Nevertheless, looking at the competition I feel that all three teams dropping down have a good chance, although West Ham have sold a massive amount of players and Sunderland will also find it tough. Sheffield United and Forest will also do well, Paul Hartís a very decent manager Ė great at nurturing young talent. Iíd also watch out for Cardiff, Iíve a feeling that Sam Hammanís team wonít be far away. I know the guy well, and theyíve strengthened since Mayís play-off victory against QPR. But we can be up there, and when we face Stoke on tomorrow it can be start of season that returns Derby to where we belong.


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