Derby County goalkeeper Stephen Bywater says the team spirit is the best it has been since they won promotion to the Premier League under Billy Davies.
Bywater was part of the team that went up via the play-offs in 2007 but was then relegated the following season.
"This is probably the first time since Billy came that the squad has been so together," he told BBC Radio Derby.
"It's hard to rebuild once you go down because players probably think they should be in the Premier League."
Derby's one-season stay in the top flight was a disaster; they finished 20th, breaking the records for scoring the fewest goals and having the fewest points and worst goal difference in the league's history.
And in their two subsequent seasons in the Championship, they have also struggled, flirting with relegation in 2008/09 and finishing 14th last term.
Former West Ham keeper Bywater admitted: "The year we were in the Premiership we were out of our depth.
"The next year you're still in a hole because your fans are expecting you to do well and you don't."
However the 28-year-old feels that the club have slowly turned the corner and the squad has a much more settled look after a turbulent time both on and off the pitch.
Bywater is cautiously optimistic about Derby's chances for the new season, although the keeper said avoiding injuries would be a major factor in determining how their season pans out.
Bywater began his career at Rochdale
"We've got a quality squad rather than a quantity squad," he said.
"And maybe over 46 games we'll have to weather some storms because we've not got the quantity in numbers. Hopefully everyone can stay fit.
"It's going to be an exciting campaign because of the squad of players we've got in, the hard work in pre-season that we've done and the formation that we've been working on in pre-season.
"Realistically we just want to do better than last season."
Manager Nigel Clough believes his side could mount a play-off push but feels any improvement on last season should be considered a success.
"We want to improve again," Clough told BBC East Midlands Today. "Can we improve on 14th and can we improve on our points total?
"Promotion is possible but with the restructuring and the budget and everything then it makes it more unlikely.
Clough cautious about promotion chances
"We need to give the young players time to get used to Championship football and form a squad that is good enough to challenge.
"We have a younger side with only four players over 30. We have some in their prime in their late 20s.
"But there is a big onus on the experienced players to look after the younger ones. We have quite a few players around 21 with not much Championship experience; it will be difficult for them and they need time to settle in."
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