RICHARD Keogh reckons the Derby County side he is leading is the happiest he has played in.
The 26-year-old centre-half has proved a more than adequate replacement for Jason Shackell, who left Pride Park in the summer.
Since his £1.2 million move from Coventry City, captain Keogh has impressed fans with his commitment, drive and leadership on the pitch.
“It’s the best dressing room I’ve been involved in,” he said ahead of this afternoon’s clash at Leicester City, kick-off 5.20pm. “You can sense it on the pitch.
“We do a lot of stuff together away from football and it helps out on the pitch.
“You know whatever happens, the lad next to you has got your back.
“There’s no flouncing or whinging if you get left out either.”
Keogh knows Leicester will be a tough proposition for Derby, who have not won at the home of their rivals for 10 years.
They got hammered 4-0 at the King Power Stadium last season and the Foxes have strengthened further since then.
“Everyone has seen the investment they’ve had,” said the Rams skipper.
“They’re a fantastic team and like Cardiff are very well-organised.
“They’re a good side and will be looking to get three points, but we go there full of confidence.
“We’re going there coming off the back of a couple of good performances.”
Derby’s away form needs to improve if they are to crack the top six.
Keogh thinks that being positive is the key to getting better on the road.
“Only in a couple of away performances have we failed to produce our free-flowing stuff,” he said.
“The shackles are off at home a little bit — we’re an attacking, energetic team.
“Maybe away from home we need to start the game well, give nothing away and then start to look for a goal.”
The Rams have been excellent at home this season, losing just one in Championship action.
And Keogh thinks playing at Pride Park has been a huge boost to Derby’s young side — who are growing into a much-improved unit.
“It’s always a bit more exciting to play in front of your own fans, who cheer you up!” he said.
“We need to concentrate on how we play.
“We need to appreciate being solid and playing to our strengths a bit more.
“As a team we’re growing. We can sense when teams are on the back foot against us.”