Curtis Davies believes Derby County’s players taken their pre-season work on the training ground into the opening matches of the 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship season.
Derby have started the season with one win and three draws from their opening five league fixtures.
All three draws have come on home turf, against Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest, while maximum points were collected in a 1-0 success at Hull City.
Wayne Rooney’s side have lost once in the league, in a 2-1 reverse at Peterborough United, while they also reached Round Two of the Carabao Cup before tasting defeat against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
While the results have been encouraging and steady, Davies is also convinced that the Rams’ early-season showings have provided plenty of foundations to build on.
Rooney, in his first pre-season as Derby’s manager, began the process of implementing a style of play and identity on the side.
It’s a challenge that Davies believes the squad have risen too, but he knows there’s still room for improvement too.
“I think over the course of last season we were adapting with what we had to stay in the division,” Davies told RamsTV.
“We feel we are better than that. We have players better than that, so we approached this pre-season with a plan, a way of playing and an identity.
“I think everyone can see what we are trying to do. The players have reacted really well to it. We have had some really good performances this season by playing the way we wanted to play and I think people recognise what us as coaches are doing to try and get more out of these players.
“It is risky at times, but you have to take risks to get rewards. It’s exciting and fun to be part of but we are still working on it and can still get better at it. We can still be more clinical but it’s a work in progress and it’s going well.”
Davies feels there’s a strong blend of youth and experience across the squad.
The 36-year-old himself, as well as Phil Jagielka, Nathan Byrne, Richard Stearman, Craig Forsyth, Graeme Shinnie, Colin Kazim-Richards and Sam Baldock, offer significant know-how and hundreds of first-team appearances.
Alongside those individuals are players with potential too, such as Kamil Jozwiak, Max Bird, Louie Sibley, Lee Buchanan and Jack Stretton.
It’s a combination that Davies, who signed a new one-year deal with the club at the start of August, is enjoying being part of.
“We have got a lot of experienced players now in the team,” he said. “It looked like we had a lot of youngsters who we would have to blood in early on, but a few more experienced players have come in and they suit the way the manager wants to play.
“We want to play a certain style. You can see from both cup games, against Salford City and Sheffield United, that whatever personnel come in, they know their role in that.
“We are not changing because of the personnel in the team, we are playing the same way, just the different personnel have to take up their role in the team. “
He concluded: “We have the bones of a good squad and that’s including the young lads.
“That blend of youth, which gives us the energy and explosiveness with the likes of Louie Sibley and players like that, alongside the experience of us older heads, gives us a great balance.”