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Flights from East Midlands?

1 January 2014

Near neighbours Leicester City, Derby County and Nottingham Forest are all flying high in the Sky Bet Championship and have set up the intriguing prospect of an East Midlands clean sweep in the promotion stakes.

The Foxes are top of the table, the Rams sit second after an incredible run under recently appointed manager Steve McClaren, and Forest are fifth following impressive Christmas victories over Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United.

Supporters of all three clubs believe, and with some justification, that their favourites can end the campaign with promotion to the Premier League.

Can all three make it? A man who can take a very educated guess is former Derby and Forest captain John McGovern, who helped both clubs to promotion from Championship level and then to the top flight title - going on at Forest to twice lift the European Cup under the management of the legendary Brian Clough.

Reflecting on the season so far and looking ahead to the second half of the campaign, McGovern told football-league.co.uk: "There's a definite possibility of the three East Midland clubs going up, especially if they can keep up their current form, but the Championship is an unpredictable division.

"At the start of the season QPR were the hot favourites for promotion along with the likes of another of the relegated clubs, Wigan, plus Watford after they'd reached last season's Play-Off final with some great football - the best in the division - and Leicester because they also had a very good season.

"But then Burnley upset the apple cart with a great first half of the season, Blackpool have been up there as well despite spending very little money, Ipswich and Brighton are pressing now and we are in for a tremendous promotion race."

Though the race is being led by Leicester and Derby there is a ruck of clubs, including Forest, hot on their heels. "I fancy Leicester to to stay in the automatic places," added McGovern, who commentates on Forest's matches for local radio, "because without doubt they are one of the very best teams in the division.

"What's happened at Derby since Steve McLaren arrived is miraculous. His short spell at Forest two seasons ago was an absolute disaster, so it might be seen as a bit of a puzzle as to why he's doing so well at Pride Park.

"Intangibles like luck will have played their part, but managers have to try things and Steve's approach at his new club is obviously working and working well.

"As soon as they started their winning run the players' confidence will have been boosted and their trust in the manager will be growing game by game. As Brian Clough used to say, 'if I could give the players a confidence pill five minutes before kick-off I could go home and watch the racing on the television.'

"If Steve can bring in some additional quality players during the January transfer window then the squad will be thinking, 'we're really going places now.'

"Hopefully Forest will be going places too. They've got big injury problems and they had to put out makeshift teams against QPR and Leeds, but they played well and deserved to win both games so that augurs well for the future.

"They've come through a stumbling period that was caused mainly by injuries and suspensions, so if they can keep it going - perhaps with the squad freshened up in January - they can definitely be involved in the end of season shake-up.

"If Derby and Leicester are in there too it will make for a really exciting run-in - and if all three were to finish the season with promotion it would then make for a fantastic Premier League season for the East Midlands next year."

For all the latest news on Derby County please click here

For all the latest news on Leicester City please click here

For all the latest news on Nottingham Forest please click here


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