STEVE Howard says self-belief can drive Derby County to the Premier League just as it did seven years ago.
Howard was top scorer and player-of-the-year when the Rams last won promotion in 2007.
They beat Southampton on penalties in the play-off semi-final and then West Bromwich Albion in the final at Wembley.
And Howard believes the key to their success was belief.
He said: “Others wrote us off, but we were all about self-belief. If a team believes, it can achieve, which is what we did.
“Billy Davies drilled belief into us. We won a lot of games 1-0 or by the odd goal, we ground out results.
“I know it is an old cliché, but we took one game at a time, won it and moved on.
“It never entered our head that we would lose.”
Derby face Brighton in the first leg of their play-off semi-final at the Amex Stadium on Thursday after finishing third in the Championship.
Brighton sneaked into sixth place with a victory over Nottingham Forest on the final day.
Howard has been impressed by Derby.
“It’s fantastic to see them doing well and in the play-offs,” he said.
“I was here for the last home game against Watford and they played some really good stuff.
“The play-offs are a lottery but Derby have as good a chance as any of the other three teams.”
Howard says a return to the Premier League would be great for the club and the fans – and also for the East Midlands.
“Derby should be in the Premier League,” he said. “I was fortunate to come to Derby from Luton and I also went on to play for Leicester City.
“Leicester have gone up - and I think we all agree they have been the best team in the Championship - but I’d love Derby to be there as well. It would great for the East Midlands.”
Howard, 37, is currently a free agent after his contract with Hartlepool United was terminated in November.
He and his former Rams team-mate Seth Johnson - another of the 2007 play-off heroes - are business partners.
“We stayed mates and we have got a property company in the North East. We buy property and rent it out,” said Howard.