Steve McClaren says Derby County’s brief trip to Spain was the perfect opportunity to ‘get the squad together’ as they aim to confirm their place in the Championship’s top six.
McClaren’s side travelled to their warm-weather training camp after last Saturday’s 4-4 draw at Huddersfield Town.
They returned to work at the Training Centre on Thursday afternoon ahead of Saturday’s trip to Millwall.
A win at The Den will secure a Play-Off berth for McClaren’s side for the second successive season, with the Rams currently sitting fifth in the table with two games left to play.
The Head Coach has stressed that being united will be crucial as Derby aim for promotion to the Premier League in his first full season at the helm.
He told Rams Player: “It was important to get the group together; that was the key thing.
“You have the squad together every day at the Training Centre, but then after work everyone goes home.
“This was a chance to have the group together over the course of a few days and we felt that it was something that we needed.
“Getting some hard work in on the training field and then having a meal together afterwards is something that we haven’t been able to do enough of, because of the games we’ve had in the last few months.
“The lads worked hard and we’re always working to improve and develop the players, which only happens on the training field.
“Our preparation on a Monday through to a Friday can make Saturday’s, sometimes, easier than normal.
“If you don’t do the work, Saturday can be difficult; the key is the players and what they want to achieve.”
He added: “We’re in it together and being united is going to help us achieve our goal at the end of the season, we have stressed that to the players.”
The 4-4 draw at Huddersfield was only the second time in McClaren’s tenure that his side has leaked four goals in a game.
The previous occasion was a 4-1 reverse at Leicester City in January 2014.
Derby have kept 22 cleans sheets in all competitions this season and McClaren has stressed that his side are more than capable of being a difficult side to break down.
Having had time to dissect the events of the draw at the John Smith’s Stadium McClaren has highlighted the need to defend better as a team, rather than pinning the responsibility on his back four and goalkeeper.
He explained: “We let four goals in last week, which was unlike us, but it’s not just the back four and goalkeeper when you concede.
“We’ve talked to the midfield players about helping the back four more by screening them and stopping balls going into the box.
“It’s something we have stressed to the front players as well because we all have to defend better, as a team.
“It’s making sure the opponents can’t play the ball forward, pressing at the right time and doing our jobs as individuals and a team.
“If we can do that – real teamwork and working hard – then we’ll help ourselves in the quest to keep clean sheets.”
He added: “We’ve talked about what happened at Huddersfield last weekend and we’ve refocused as we look ahead to difficult game at Milllwall.”
Despite highlighting the need for clean sheets, McClaren is adamant that it must not be at the expense of Derby’s attacking quality.
Derby have scored 82 goals in the Championship this season and boast an impressive array of forward-thinking options.
The likes of Chris Martin, Darren Bent, Tom Ince and Johnny Russell are just some of the options McClaren can call upon in attack and they have weighed in with some important goals along the way.
In addition, midfielder Jeff Hendrick has chipped in eight goals from midfield to gain some crucial points.
McClaren accepts the style of play his side adopts comes with a degree of risk-taking, but says making a change wouldn’t be beneficial in Derby’s quest for promotion.
He said: "We have an attacking style that we enjoy playing and that’s what we are all about; the way we go forwards at times can be breathtaking.
“When we came in we wanted to create a certain brand of football; 'The Derby Way’.
“Sometimes that can be open and risky, we know there’s a chance we could be punished at times as a result.
“We won’t change our style and our strength is our football; we won’t stop taking risks or trying to score goals.
“Another strength of ours is defending from the front with high workrate and pressing, which is something that we know we need to improve.
“Keeping clean sheets is something we know we can do, we’ve done it before and we’re certainly capable of doing it again.”
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