When Steve McClaren was appointed Derby County manager following Nigel Clough's harsh dismissal in October, many were laughing.

Following a disastrous spell in charge of bitter rivals Nottingham Forest, it was probably the Reds supporters laughing the loudest. The 'Wally with the Brolly' had nearly wrecked them, and now it was time they wanted him to do his dirty work at Derby, to make them a laughing stock as well.

That hasn't been the way of things, however. 

Seven wins in his opening nine games, and the Rams supporters have been left dreaming of promotion, as they sit five points from top spot.

One weakness in Derby's recent campaigns under old boss Nigel Clough has been the strength in depth, but McClaren has been moving to alter that, bringing in the likes of Michael Keane, Andre Wisdom and Simon Dawkins to strengthen their talented squad.

The likes of Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick are well courted by Premier League clubs, but the option of staying at Derby becomes evermore attractive as they power up the league, ruthlessly seeing teams off and sending out a statements of intent.

From the outside looking in, it appears McClaren fits Derby like a hand in a glove. Something Derby Chief Executive Sam Rush will be grateful for, after receiving criticism from some quarters over his decision to axe Nigel Clough.

As the Rams progress quickly up the league, those in authority at Derby may look with a shred of regret, that the decision wasn't made sooner.

Often envied for their stability factor, Derby seem to be seeking to do a lot more than sidestep onto mid-table mediocrity like they'd become accustomed to.

Now could be the time Derby County became a force to be reckoned with. A good January followed by a maintaining of their current form, and the 'Dark Horse' tag will soon disappear, and then they will become the 'Genuine Contenders'.

Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms