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I saw Derby County get promoted at Pride Park for the first time – now David Clowes needs to do this

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On Saturday, Pride Park saw the long-overdue Derby County promotion. Following their two-year demotion from the second division, Paul Warne’s team defeated Carlisle United 2-0 to guarantee their return to the Championship.

It’s incredible to consider that Derby, who was twice demoted from the Premier League and was once a frequent contender for Championship promotion, has not celebrated a promotion in DE24 since leaving the Baseball Ground in 1997. But now that the wait is over, a week filled with a plethora of emotions came to an end very simply with another convincing victory at home.

Regaining promotion to the Championship is an incredible accomplishment for the club’s ownership and administration, as just a few years ago, they were in serious financial trouble and faced the risk of going bankrupt. It’s now time for fans to get ready for a return to a very different Championship, one that has been nearly Premier League-caliber at the top this season and features some truly outstanding teams.

The club’s behind-the-scenes preparations have been on for some time, and the primary focus will undoubtedly be on the permanent signing of Ebou Adams, a transformative loan signing who has drawn comparisons to Leon Osman’s stint in 2004. The situation with goalie Joe Wildsmith, who won the Golden Glove for the most clean sheets this season, will also change as his contract expires this summer.

With the exception of a small hiccup this season, he has been among Derby’s most reliable players since signing in 2022. Derby’s fans have also been outstanding this season, especially in the final stretch. The enthusiasm of the Popside Fanatics made Saturday’s event one of the best for most fans in the team’s recent history.

With the exception of cup games, attendance has not dropped below 24,000 at any of the last four home games. Next season, it will be important to channel that excitement. The new surfers in each of the four stands, as well as the flags distributed across the stadium and in the South Stand, look fantastic.

A person standing behind me at the Carlisle game may have called it “anticlimactic” because the job had been half-done for a week following a victory at Cambridge United, but given that it’s promotion back into the Championship—a division Derby spent 14 years in before relegation in 2022—it means a familiarity. Going back to the second division will likely require a squad revamp, which is why owner David Clowes—who has not only saved Derby County but also won promotions recently—has his work cut out for him this summer, to put it mildly.

Up until recently, athletes signed one- or two-year contracts due to the nature of departing administration. There will be the customary demands that the owner “get his chequebook out,” but common sense must prevail.

This is not to say Derby should settle for a 21st-place finish the next season; instead, more astute use of the loan and free agency markets will be required. As Derby returns to the comfortable confines of the Championship—a division whose caliber has significantly increased in recent years—it’s an exciting moment.

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