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Steve McClaren looking forward to his first East Midlands derby

22 March 2014

By Tony Leighton

East Midlands derbies between Derby County and Nottingham Forest are never anything less than intensely passionate, feisty affairs.

And the stakes when the two Sky Bet Championship teams clash at Derby's iPro Stadium on Saturday could not be much higher.

The third in the table Rams and sixth-placed Forest are both hunting promotion to the Premier League at the expense of each other.

So Derby's former Forest manager Steve McClaren, who intriguingly will be up against ex-Rams boss Billy Davies, will be demanding hot-blooded but cool-headed commitment from his players.

Ahead of what will be his first managerial experience of the eagerly anticipated fixture, former England boss McClaren said: "You've got to keep a cool head.

"It's what I call 'ice and fire' - you've got to have fire in the belly but be ice cool to play football. The players know that, they know what they have to do.

"They've got more experience of these games than I have and so they know what to expect. We've got home advantage, but we know it will be one helluva fight against a very good Nottingham Forest team."

Though it is McClaren's first meeting with his old club as manager, he was at the City Ground to watch the reverse fixture at the end of September.

Forest's 1-0 win was followed by the dismissal of Derby boss Nigel Clough and his replacement by McClaren, who has overseen a big rise up the table.

The Rams were in 14th position and seven points below the Play-Off places when he took over, but now they have a seven-point cushion between themselves and the teams just below the top six.

Like Forest, however, they have stuttered of late - Forest are without a win in seven games while the Rams have not won in four, taking just two points from a possible 12 and failing to score in all four outings.

But McClaren, whose team had previously been prolific scorers, is not unduly concerned. "It would worry me if we weren't creating chances," he said. "We've got goalscorers, it's just a case of something happening and turning it around.

"To win games we have to score goals, but we know we're capable of doing it. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and it will turn."

If it turns in Derby's favour against Forest then McClaren will earn loads of Brownie points from the Rams fans as well as seeing his team pick up vital points in the race for promotion to the Premier League.

But the iPro Stadium boss, who admits that "mistakes were made, a lot on my behalf," in his brief stint at Forest before his October 2011 dismissal, insists that despite the intensity of this fixture it is not the season's be-all and end-all.

"It's a fantastic occasion for both clubs," said McClaren, "with both going for the Play-Offs, both in the same kind of form and with 10 games to go.

"It's a double-whammy game - it's not just about going for the Play-Offs but also the pride of a local derby. It's great, but it's not winner takes all.

"There are still a lot of games left. But whoever gets the result [from this match], it will be pivotal to what happens in the next nine games."

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