Derby County – nothing to fear?

They are the bookie's second favourites to win the Championship and we are predicted for the bottom five. They have recently appointed a new manager who was previously at Chelsea, Paris St German and Real Madrid. They have just spent £4.75m on one player.  Their squad boasts six full internationals. We've lost our last five games up there.  There will be a passionate home crowd of around 30,000.

But, since beating us 2-o last February they have won only two of fifteen competitive games (and those were against Wigan and Blackpool).  Last season's collapse from outright promotion hopefuls to missing the play-offs by two places was spectacular, and has never really been explained.  While we competently disposed of Dagenham during the week a strong Derby team were beaten 2-1 at Portsmouth.  We note that Portsmouth beat Dagenham 3-0 last Saturday.  Is the game such a home banker after all?

Steve McLaren - manager of last season's failure-  has been replaced by Paul Clement, son of QPR full back Dave Clement.  Paul's professional career as a footballer took him to Banstead Athletic and Corinthian Casuals and he soon realised that his future lay elsewhere. He went into teaching and part-time coaching and joined Chelsea to work with their under 16 team. When Gus Hiddink arrived at Chelsea Clement rose to become first team coach and he continued in that role when Carlo Ancelotti took over. After Ancelotti's sacking Clement worked briefly under Steve Kean at Blackburn but soon joined his mentor at PSG where they won the French title together. In June 2013 he followed Ancelotti to Real Madrid as assistant coach and they won the Champions League in their first season.  When Madrid went trophyless last season Ancelotti was duly sacked and Clement walked out four days later.

So the obvious question is: can he do it on his own? Is he Mourinho or Les Reed? Could he be Taylor without Clough or Clough without Taylor? Is he just a brilliant second in command? Does he have a clue about what it takes to compete in The Championship? Whatever he is, he is certainly aware of the expectations on his shoulders and has publically announced that he is targeting promotion this year.

Derby kicked off on Saturday with a 0-0 draw at Bolton.  Four of their new signings featured in the game. Jason Shackell (from Burnley), Alex Pearce (Reading), Chris Baird (WBA) and Scott Carson who was at Wigan last year.  Tom Ince, for whom Derby paid Hull £4.75m this summer, was loaned to them for the second half of last season but appeared for the first time as their player.  Austrian international Andreas Weimann came on as a substitute but Darren Bent didn't get off the bench.  The honour of leading the attack went instead to Scottish strikers Chris Martin and Johnny Russell.

Against Portsmouth on Wednesday Derby kicked off with Bent and Weimann up front but Bent was substituted after an hour and replaced by Russell.  Ince came on at the same time but failed to turn the game round.

In his programme notes last week Guy Luzon acknowledged how challenging Charlton's start to the season is but he also made the point that "Anybody can beat anybody. With confidence we will get points".   He does seem to have had the effect of instilling a strong sense of belief and a presumably unchanged Charlton team should kick off at Derby in a positive frame of mind.

A 0-0 draw will see Charlton emerge from Pride Park with their defence still unbreached and in an even better frame of mind for the trip to Forest on Tuesday.  There's just an outside possibility of a late winner, maybe from an unlikely source.