Wayne Rooney claims he can see the hunger back in the eyes of Derby’s players.
The Rams are now unbeaten in three games since Rooney assumed sole control as caretaker.
They climbed off the bottom with a 1-0 win at Millwall after successive 1-1 draws at home.
Now the 19th-placed club face a tough test tonight (Wednesday) at Brentford, who are unbeaten in their last nine games.
But player-coach Rooney, who has stepped back from playing to focus on management, insists Derby are making great strides since Phillip Cocu left.
Rooney,35, said: “The intensity of the training sessions has been a lot better which has shown in the games.
“The lads are covering a lot of ground and the confidence is coming back with each game.
“Everyone can see the progress being made, the performances are better.
“You can see a hunger in the players which I feel has been missing.
“When you look in their eyes you can see that.
“We are ready to start picking up more points in this league.”
Rooney hopes to remain in charge when the club are finally taken over by proposed new owner Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan after a £60million deal with chairman Mel Morris.
Rooney faces competition for the permanent post from the likes of John Terry but insists the team have turned a corner under him.
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Rooney added: “To go one goal up at Millwall and see it out and keep the clean sheet and get the three points, you could feel in the dressing room a weight had been lifted.
“We now have a very tough game coming up on Wednesday.
“But we are confident and have belief we can go there and win.”
Rooney is enjoying pitting his wits against other bosses and trying to come up with tactics to prevail.
The England and Manchester United record-scorer added: “I love watching teams, how they play, how they press, how they defend.
“I love that part of the game and it is great to sit down and analyse a team and try and combat that.
“That is the part I am really enjoying.
“The players know I am in charge and am picking the team.”
Rooney says climbing off the foot of the Championship with their second win of the season has given the whole club a huge lift.
He said: “Driving into training Monday morning I was really excited.
“I know what winning football games means to not only the players but the staff all around the building.
“To see them smiling again was great and everyone was a bit more relaxed which was great.
“Hopefully there are a few more days like that ahead.”