Derby County goalkeeper Scott Carson feels that a "good start" to the Rams' 2017-18 season could pave the way for a strong promotion push.
Carson hopes to "pick a good few points up early on"
The proverbial underachievers in England's second flight, Derby have been the "nearly men" of recent seasons and Carson puts this down to poor opening results in previous years. He stated, "in the past two seasons, we haven't started great and that has put us on the back foot."
Rather than playing catch up, the former England international believes that a role reversal could change Derby's fortunes this season. "If we can get off to a good start and pick a good few points us early on, if we were to have a rocky patch in the middle, it wouldn't dent our chances too much."
"The pre-season games are irrelevant now"
The Rams begin their promotion with a visit to relegated Sunderland who have endured a dire pre-season to compound a dismal twelve months. The Black Cats were hammered 5-0 by Celtic at the Stadium of Light last weekend which drew negativity from players and fans alike as central midfielder Darron Gibson criticism of his teammates was captured on video.
Yet Carson has suggested Derby need to ignore the mishaps on Wearside unless they want to prepare for defeat. He explained, "if we go there thinking it's going to be easy because Celtic went there and won 5-0, we're in for a shock."
He added "we haven't looked too much into their game. The pre-season games are irrelevant now. This will be a totally different game."
Derby look to new signings to muster a strong start after Bent injury
The contest is likely to grant debuts to a trio of players for both sides. Jason Steele, Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban are all in contention as Simon Grayson takes the Sunderland reigns for the first time in a competitive contest.
Meanwhile, former Hull City duo Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone are in line for starts for the visitors alongside defender Andre Wisdom. However, key striker Darren Bent is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.