After three weeks without a league game at Deepdale, manager Simon Grayson is hoping for a white hot return to PR1 when the Rams come to town on Saturday afternoon.
With 3,500 visiting supporters set to be in good voice in the Bill Shankly Kop, the PNE chief feels that the home fans will also be out in force and ready to play their part as the Lilywhites take on one of the division’s favourites, and a side who will be expecting promotion after a summer spending spree of £20m.
The international break comes to an end with four home games in the next fortnight and the gaffer is happy to be back to work.
“It comes thick and fast now,” he said. “It feels strange that you have two weeks without a game and then you go Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday, but that’s what the Championship is all about and what the players have worked so hard for.
“There is no bigger game for the players to be involved in, in this division, than this weekend against a team that are one of the favourites for the division, have spent £20m in the summer transfer window and £10m on deadline day, so it doesn’t come much better and bigger than that!
“They have got the clout to go and spend £6m on Bradley Johnson and £4m on Jacob Butterfield and that shows you what they are capable of doing; that is before you look at the host of quality of players they already have within their squad. They had a strong summer transfer policy and also did a lot the year before and we are fully aware of what we up against.
“There is a very different expectancy level on the two clubs. They have spent that money; they have a manager who has been around Europe with some of the best managers in the game, so they will have the pressure to win games and get promoted. Getting promoted will be their underlined ambition from the owners, but we don’t have that same pressure, so we can enjoy Saturday.
“We both have had different starts. They will be disappointed with their start, but have plenty of players in their squad who can hurt you and they can go on a run of wins and I am sure Paul will be saying that to his players.
“However, we can go and enjoy the game. I am sure it will be a fantastic atmosphere. There will be 3,500 Derby fans and I am sure we will turn out in force as well and it is what the Championship is about.
“For the majority of the games this season, we will be the underdog. We are a newly promoted team and have no pressure that we ‘have’ to get promoted this year.
“This time last year things were different, but this year we will try and win every game and see where it takes us. The boot is on the other foot with Derby. They and a couple of other clubs will feel, that with the money they’ve spent and what happened last year, that they have to be there and thereabouts this year.”
Greg Cunningham should return from injury, but Kyel Reid and Jordan Hugill are set to sit out after picking up injuries in the Lancashire Senior Cup game versus Everton on Monday, however, debuts could be handed to strike duo Stevie May and Eoin Doyle, something the manager believes negates the loss of Jermaine Beckford for an extended period.
“Jermaine has had his operation and he will be out for a number of months, unfortunately. We knew that could happen, but there is a lot of positivity with the signings of the two new lads on deadline day.
“We did the work knowing that the news with Jermaine might not be as good as we though, but that’s what happens in football.
“I am not going to put a timescale on how long Jermaine is going to be out for, but it will be a few months, rather than weeks, but we have enough competition in the squad to push on and get the results we want,” he added.