STEVE McClaren admits he has learnt more about his Derby County squad in the past week than he did in the previous six.
A delighted McClaren saw his team chalk up three wins in six days by beating Wigan Athletic, Middlesbrough and Blackpool.
The victories stretched Derby’s winning run to five matches and they find themselves three points clear in fourth place – and five points adrift of the Championship’s top two.
Looking back on what he called a ‘big week’, McClaren said: “There have been lots of challenges and tests for the team and the squad.
“They have come through the challenges and won each of the games differently.
“They have fought when they have had to fight, and have played good football when they could.
“I think we have learned more in those six days than we did in six weeks.”
McClaren was appointed 10 weeks ago along with first-team coach Paul Simpson and goalkeeper coach Eric Steele.
Derby have won seven and drawn two of the 10 matches since. The only defeat was a narrow one away against Queen’s Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Twenty three points have been collected from the last 30.
“We are getting a good balance to the team,” said McClaren, before he paid tribute to former manager Nigel Clough, who was sacked at the end of September.
“Credit to Nigel Clough for bringing these players together,” McClaren added.
“It was a big call from (chief executive) Sam Rush to do what he did and all we have done is just come in and try to justify that decision and justify that belief Sam had in not only myself but Paul and Eric, and what we could do.
“I give all the credit to the players.
“We said when we came in that this team can play good football, is a good team and a good squad. It was just inconsistent.
“We want to get consistency, and we are getting that at the present moment.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground.
“Results bring expectation but we know we have still got a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”
HEAD coach Steve McClaren said replacing Jamie Ward with Johnny Russell at half time against Blackpool was a tactical switch.
Ward missed the win at Wigan due to a knee injury and started against Middlesbrough and Blackpool.
“Jamie has just come back from injury and Johnny has been chomping at the bit to get his opportunity, and he did a great job,” McClaren said.
Russell has made one start and three appearances as a substitute since recovering from a broken leg.