STEVE McClaren is the first Derby County manager to be named top boss in the Championship in seven years, writes STEVE NICHOLSON.
McClaren has landed the manager of the month award for December, a month in which Derby won six and drew one of seven games.
The last Rams manager to collect the prize was Billy Davies for January 2007.
“The award says ‘manager of the month’ but I think they should rename it ‘team of the month’ because the players have done tremendously well,” said McClaren.
“To have a December like we did was fantastic and the award is recognition for the great work that has been going on at this football club, not just in the last three months but over recent years.”
Meanwhile, midfield goal machine Craig Bryson is fit for tonight’s televised Championship clash.
Bryson has returned to training after a groin problem and is set to face leaders Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm.
The Scottish international’s run of 25 consecutive starts ended when he sat out the FA Cup defeat by Chelsea.
His goals have been a key feature as the Rams have climbed from 14th to fourth in the past three months.
Bryson has scored five in his last eight appearances and has 11 for the season –four behind top scorer Chris Martin.
“He has trained and come through okay, and that’s a boost for us,” said McClaren. “Craig’s a player who has had a big part to play in our recent results.”
Bryson was among the nominees for Championship player of the month award for December along with Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater, Burnley’s Kieran Trippier and Sheffield Wednesday’s Connor Wickham.
Bryson started all seven of Derby’s games last month.
Derby pit the best away record in the Championship against Leicester’s best home record tonight.
The Rams are also the top scorers in the division.
New loan signing Patrick Bamford is set to be named in the squad but central defender Zak Whitbread is ineligible as part of his loan from Leicester.
Richard Keogh remains sidelined with the knee ligament injury he suffered playing against Doncaster Rovers three weeks ago but the Rams skipper is making good progress.
“Richard is not far away now,” said McClaren.
“He’s out there running and hopefully we can get him doing a little bit of light training next week.
“The Brighton game a week tomorrow might be a little too early for him, so we’re looking at the following week.”
Striker Johnny Russell is still on course to return to action by the end of January after undergoing surgery on a fractured cheekbone.
“He’s got to rest and hopefully we can get him fitted with a protective mask next week so he can start light training and join in with the group, as long as his mask is okay,” said McClaren.