FORMER Derby County skipper Matt Oakley says the Rams have the momentum to take them to the Premier League.
Oakley also believes the club is in better shape to stay up this time if they do win promotion.
They face Queen’s Park Rangers in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday.
Oakley was captain the last time Derby won promotion. The midfielder led the team to victory over West Bromwich Albion at Wembley in 2007 and is backing the Rams to beat QPR.
“It is lovely to see the Derby team in a great position to put the club back where it should be,” said Oakley, now 36 and playing at Exeter City.
“Steve McClaren seems to have come in and made a big impact,” added Oakley. “You can see that with the number of goals Derby have scored and their attractive way of playing.
“He seems to have the connection with the players.
“He has given them a plan of how to play and they have suddenly realised what they can do.
“I saw their semi-final first leg against Brighton when they went one down and reacted really well, which shows strength of character.
“I see the play-off final pretty similar to what we faced against West Brom in 2007. West Brom had a team of great talent, but we had a great team, a great work ethic and togetherness.
“If it comes down to teamwork over the 90 minutes, I think Derby can do it.
“They have got the momentum.”
Oakley joined Derby as a free agent from Southampton in 2006 and was one of manager Billy Davies’ early signings.
He made 42 appearances in the promotion campaign and scored six goals.
“When I went to Derby there was talk of a three-year plan to get to the Premier League, and we did it in the first year,” said Oakley.
“So we were not really geared up for staying in the Premier League or sustaining that status.
“There was the expectation of staying there, but if anyone looked at the squad we were never really going to do it and we were relegated.
“The results were not there, then falls out happen at management and board level.
“Suddenly, Billy Davies left, and then players left. A new manager came in and there were a lot of changes.”
Paul Jewell replaced Davies as manager and Oakley along with striker Steve Howard was sold to Leicester City half way through the Premier League campaign.
“It was disappointing to have such a successful year and win promotion, and then to follow that with what happened in the Premier League the next season,” said Oakley.
“Derby now seem to have the right mix of players and management.
“I think they are in a better position to get to the Premier League and have the investment to stay there.”