Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough believes there is plenty more to come from his new-look team.
Twelve months ago when Clough took charge at Bramall Lane the Blades were bottom of League One and scrapping to avoid relegation.
But a revival in the second half of the season – which also saw United reach Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals – has carried over into this campaign.
Just one defeat in their last nine games has seen United climb to seventh in League One, just three points off second place.
Ahead of tomorrow’s derby trip to Chesterfield, Clough is optimistic his team are heading in the right direction after a host of summer signings.
“It takes time for people to settle and everyone does that at a different rate,” he said.
“This time last year the club was bottom. Now we’re seventh.
“You’ve got to be patient. We’re still quite a way short of where we want to be in terms of gelling, but we are still picking up results which is good.”
Tomorrow sees a lunchtime visit to newly-promoted Chesterfield, who sit just a point behind the Blades, and Clough is expecting a tough test.
“It will be intense,” said the former Derby and Burton boss. “They’ll be looking forward to us coming to town. We have to contend and cope with that.
“Away from home is when your mentality really gets tested. I hope we’ll thrive on that, the big games.
“We’ll have to get used to it because we seem to have had some big ones already, but the intensity will grow as the season goes on.”
Clough is hoping the Blades can play some football tomorrow, despite the obvious intensity of a derby game.
“You need to have the right mentality and be of the right character,” he said.
“Yes, you’ve got to fight and scrap. But you’ve also got to get the ball down and play.
“In the past, look at the Merseyside derby. They were so intense, nobody strung two passes together all game. But I think that’s changing now because of Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez. Local derbies aren’t always like that anymore.
“That’s what separates the really top players from the rest.
“They can thrive on that atmosphere but, in a sense, separate themselves from it too,” he said.
“The lads here who have played in derbies before, in Scotland for example, will know what to expect.”