Jake Buxton insists Derby County should have ‘nothing to fear’ ahead of the 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship campaign.
The 29-year-old defender, who is about to enter his sixth season with the Rams, was key performer as the side achieved a record points total in the 2013/14 season.
A 1-0 Play-Off Final defeat to Queens Park Rangers last month condemned McClaren’s men to a seventh successive season in English football’s second tier, but Buxton has backed his team-mates to shrug off that disappointment.
Although Buxton admits the Championship looks, on paper, an even stronger division this time around he is convinced Derby can rise to the challenge of being amongst the promotion contenders.
He told www.dcfc.co.uk: “When I looked at the fixtures last week my instant reaction was that the Championship doesn’t get any easier.
“It is such a hard division and when you consider just how good a season we had last season, it really does hammer home how well the lads performed.
“I would say however, that we should have nothing to fear when the new season comes around.
“We played around 80 per cent of the teams last season and know what they’re about.
“The teams that have come down from the Premier League will fancy their chances of bouncing back and the sides that were promoted from League 1 will be full of confidence, so it has the makings of another hard league.
“We know, as a squad, it’s important to carry on where we left off in terms of the form we showed towards the end of the season.
“We achieved so much last season and we want to experience that winning feeling on a regular basis all over again.”
He added: “I know people talk about a ‘Play-Off Final Hangover’ but as far as I am concerned that won’t happen to this group of players.
“We’re a determined group and that day hurt us all so much, but we’re a determined and close set of players and we’ll give everything we have to banish those memories.”
Ahead of Derby’s return to pre-season training on Friday of this week, Buxton was pleased to hear from Head Coach Steve McClaren during his close-season break.
A text message to check the popular figure amongst supporters was enjoying his break was a ‘nice touch’ according to Buxton, who is eager to prove his worth to Derby’s boss once again in the lead-up to the new season.
He said: “I heard from the Head Coach a few weeks ago and it was nice of him to get in touch, as he didn’t need to do that.
“He just said he was looking forward to another good season from myself and to enjoy the break before pre-season.
“I’m sure he will have a good but enjoyable pre-season planned out for us and I’m raring to go again.
“Pre-season is a tough time but like the rest of the lads, I’m determined to hit the ground running and prove myself all over again.”
Buxton has made 132 appearances for Derby since arriving from Burton Albion in the summer of 2009, including 52 in all competitions last season.