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Sunday, 13 August, 2000, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Derby aim for survival
Jim Smith
Jim Smith aims to steer Derby's ship to success
Derby County 2000/2001 preview

The Rams main aim this season will be to avoid getting sucked into the relegation mire.

To do so they will have to improve on last season's woeful home form.

Pride Park was a fortress in its first season but last time out it was the away sides who tended to leave full of pride and with three points.

Jim Smith has tried to address his side's tendency to concede soft goals to some of the poorer teams in the league during the close season.

The uncompromising and experienced Norwegian international Bjorn Otto Bragstad has been brought in to add a resolve and steel that has been lacking since the departure of Igor Stimac.

Astute signing

The addition of young left back Danny Higginbotham from Manchester United could also prove to be one of Jim Smith's more astute signings.

  Transfers in
Danny Higginbotham (Man Utd), 2m
Simo Valakari (Motherwell), free
Georgi Kinkladze (Ajax), 3m
Bjorn Otto Bragstad (Rosenborg), 1.5m
Youl Mawene (Lens), 500,000

The core of Derby's team is stronger than it was last season.

Goalkeeper Mart Poom has established himself as one of the Premier League's top shot stoppers, Bragstad can help shore up the defence, while Craig Burley brings experience and guile in midfield.

In attack big things will be expected from Branko Strupar, the man charged with the responsibility of correcting Derby's goalscoring deficiencies.

But perhaps the most exciting prospect for Derby will be the continuing progress of a clutch of talented youngsters.

Young prospects

Steve Elliott and Rory Delap both look increasingly accomplished in defence.

England under-21 international Seth Johnson should only get better as experience adds to his raw passion and determination, while both Lee Morris and Malcolm Christie look capable of scoring goals at the top level.

If the Rams are capable of avoiding being drawn into the dogfight again there may be more chance for the side's flair players to demonstrate their ability.

  Transfers out
Mikkel Beck (Lille), 500,000
Esteban Fuertes (Lens), 4m
Richard Knight (Oxford), free
Sinclair Le Geyt (Port Vale), free
Tony Dorigo (Stoke), free
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson (Port Vale), free
Michael Lyons, released
Danny Porter, released
Amrit Sidhu, released

Stefano Eranio and Georgi Kinkladze delighted the Pride Park faithful with fleeting bursts of sublime skill last season and with a team more comfortably positioned in mid-table there may be more room for them to express themselves.

The fitness and form of Kinkladze will be crucial to Derby's season.

He was signed for 3m from Ajax during the summer after a loan spell last season and his ability alone could elevate Derby from a basement struggle to mid-table respectability.

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See also:

08 Aug 00 |  Derby County
Blatsis joins Rams
06 Aug 00 |  Birmingham City
Francis has Sturridge bid turned down
02 Aug 00 |  Derby County
Derby make Mawene acquisition
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