After Nigel Clough was sacked in late September following the defeat to bitter rivals Nottingham Forest, many Derby fans were left with a sour taste in the mouth. But none can doubt the shrewdness of the move now, as Steve McClaren has steered the Rams to just one match from a return to the Premier League.
Perhaps unfairly labelled as the worst team in Premier League history, Derby have suffered dearly since their relegation to the Championship in 2008. Season upon season of mid-table mediocrity has however finally resulted in something positive, as Derby now look to finish the job after finishing thirrd in the Championship and narrowly missing out on automatic promotion. The task in front is a tough one, with Harry Redknapp's QPR awaiting on Wembley Way.
It is fitting then, that the two should meet in a winner-take-all match for the most coveted prize in world football, as the fortunes of each teams could not have been more different.
QPR have had the luxury of a billionaire takeover, with Caterham F1 and AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes investing heavily into the west London club since August 2011.
Rangers enjoyed a season in the Premier League after a comprehensive campaign at the top of second tier, though were brought crashing down to earth the following season eventually being relegated in April 2013. The R's now have the highest wage bill in second tier memory, and have a huge squad of ego's patched together by a trusty Cockney Lieutenant.
Derby County possess a more humble story. Often thought of as a sleeping giant of English football, the Rams need only refer to their previous successes; the club etched in history and boasting an array of trophies that current top tier clubs can only envy.
They were taken over in 2008 by American group General Sports and Entertainment, with founder Andrew Appleby becoming Chairman of the club. The face of the board however is that of President Sam Rush, a friendly and assuring face who appears at press conferences and fulfills media duties.
Rush has been central to a very gradual and calculated effort to get Derby back to where they belong, never allowing the culture of English Chairmen to tempt him elsewhere. Nigel Clough mirrored this measured approach to progress. Keeping the buckle firmly tight, the wage bill was rarely high and running debt amongst the lowest in the Championship, Clough established a mentality at Moor Farm that is now synonymous with Derby this season, if only needing a little refining from an experienced head.
McClaren certainly has the credentials to guide Derby back to the Premier League, and with proper planning they could be there to stay.
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