Why Pride may finally be returning to Pride Park
Max Bird of Derby County runs with the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Middlesbrough at Pride Park Stadium, Derby, UK, on 21st August 2021. (Photo by James Holyoak/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Derby County's Pride Park stadium, often coined "Prideless Park" due to Derby's lack of success since the club moved there from the Baseball Ground in 1997, had become a toxic environment in recent seasons. However, since the return of supporters the atmosphere has changed for the better.

Here's what Derby's current squad and management team have done to get the supporters back on side, and to try and restore some pride at the East Midlands outfit.

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  • The new arrivals

It's well known that Derby have been dealt a poor hand this season, unable to register any new long-term signings besides Ravel Morrison, Curtis Davies and Richard Stearman. Derby were able to sign Sam Baldock and veteran defender Phil Jagielka, however they could only sign deals until January 2022 due to EFL restrictions.

Additionally, the new signings could only sign contracts valued up to £4.5k per week, a far cry from what Derby had been able to offer over the previous decade. However, this appears to be working in Derby's favour so far this season.

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All five of Derby's signings so far have played with a hunger and desire that the squad has been devoid of for a long time. This was epitomised by Phil Jagielka's warrior-like performance against Middlesbrough, playing on despite blood gushing from his face.

Derby fans will hope that the new arrivals can keep this mentality for the rest of the season to help keep the club in the division.

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  • Creating a siege mentality

Derby's long battle with the EFL has caused a distinct change in their reputation, with the days of other teams and supporters drooling over their superb free-flowing football long gone. Instead, there's more of an "us against the world" mentality, and it seems to be working in Derby's favour.

This mentality off the pitch appears to have leaked down onto the pitch and into the dressing room, with the players giving that extra 10% to fight for every point. This shift in mentality could be vital for keeping Derby in the division, with the team often seen as being too soft in previous seasons.

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  • Players fighting for the club

Every single Derby player so far this season has shown a willingness to put their body on the line for the team. Even players who aren't known for their physicality such as Kamil Jozwiak and Louie Watson have been throwing themselves into everything to help the team.

This shows a real team spirit, and with the willingness to fight for every ball being fantastic for getting the supporters on their side. Supporters love it when players show they care, and so far the players have certainly shown that.

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  • Supporter influence

In 2014, Derby reached the EFL Championship play-off final in a season in which they achieved their record points total with 85 points. Derby lost the final, and from that day there was a real weight of expectation around Pride Park. Big money signings came and went, managers came and went, but still the expectation remained.

This expectation had a real negative impact on the atmosphere at Pride Park, but this appears to have changed following the return of supporters this season. Despite lower attendances, Derby's supporters have been much more positive, and that has clearly rubbed off on the team.

With expectations the lowest they've been in decades, the supporters have really got behind the team. This has contributed to the aforementioned siege mentality, and has helped bring some pride back to a club which really needed it.

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  • Summary

Whilst the job is nowhere near done, Derby look a much better side than they did last season. Despite the odds being stacked up against them, there's a real chance that the good times could return to Derby, with Wayne Rooney's team playing with passion and pride.

If the current atmosphere and performance levels are retained throughout the season, there's no reason why the future couldn't be bright for the Rams.

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