Harford is 'surprised' to see Rams struggling this season
Town number two on today's clash at Pride Park
Luton assistant boss Mick Harford admitted he has been ‘surprised’ to see today’s opponents Derby Country struggling at the wrong end of the table this season.
The Rams, who began the campaign with Dutchman and ex-Barcelona midfielder Philip Cocu at the helm, had been hoping to figure at the top end of the division, but started woefully, winning just once in their first 15 Championship encounters.
Cocu paid the price, losing his job in November, as former England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney took over on an interim basis, calling time on his illustrious playing career in January to officially begin his first venture into management.
He oversaw a run of six wins from eight, but a seven game winless streak ahead of today's contest means the Rams are 19th, just five points clear of the bottom three.
Harford, a former Rams player himself, said: “I’m surprised where Derby are, in terms of their position in the league.
“I’m not surprised where we are, with the way we’ve played this season and the way we’ve approached things, especially defensively, we look solid, we look sound, but I didn’t expect Derby to be in that position.
“They got off to a bad start, Wayne came in, turned things around a little bit and they’re on a bit of lull at the moment but they’re a really good team, with good players.
“We’re just delighted with where we are and just trying to concentrate on amassing as many points as we can.”
Although Derby are still by no means safe from the drop, Harford believes Rooney, the country's record goalscorer with 53 strikes in 120 appearances, has made a good start to life as a manager at Pride Park.
He continued: “He is a legend in English football, now he’s in his first step in management and I think he has done really well.
"They were very patient in the way they played with Cocu in charge, as the time when we played them, it was a tough game as they played well, but we won the game 2-1.
"Wayne came in as the manager and gave them a real lift, a real impetus, a slight difference.
"They have some exciting players, they have some good young players blended with experience so it is going to be a tough game.
"It always is at Pride Park but it is a challenge we look forward to.
With Town some 15 points ahead of where they were at the same stage last season and can go into the final nine games of the campaign without having to look nervously over their shoulders, on why he thinks this term has been that much better for the Hatters, Harford added: “There has been a big improvement, especially in terms of the points.
"Defensively we have been really solid and sound, we don’t look like conceding goals at all.
"Certain individuals have come to the fore and performed really well, while as a whole group I think we have improved immensely and it has shown in the league position.
"We want to keep improving, we want to keep getting better and we want to keep testing ourselves.
"This game against Derby is a big test for us and that is what we look forward to. “