Although this year the three relegated sides are bidding for an instant return, Derby are a reminder of how the downward spiral can actually continue.
"It just goes to show you the problems of going out of the Premiership; they have suffered, as Ipswich have and we have - and everyone else that has come out of the Premiership," says Alan.
"They are in danger of dropping down a division as Sheffield Wednesday did - but I sincerely hope that they don't.
"They will be fighting for their lives to make sure they get three points at our place but we have got too much to worry about regarding ourselves - which is to bounce back as soon as possible.
"They have got a couple of very good young players, Huddlestone in particular, who I know is being looked at and admired - and has a big future ahead of him.
"Like us they are largely a young side - our inexperience showed against Reading, but it wasn't a case of bottling it, just that we got outfought.
"Derby have got some good old pros as well who are trying to steer them out of danger.
"I am sure the fans will be behind the side - we have done well at home recently and we want to continue that."
Alan is hoping for a solid performance from Michael Carrick in midfield, and adds:
"Our two best players - the first names on the team sheet - are Michael Carrick and Matthew Etherington, but you wouldn't call them ball-winners.
"The one thing which could take Michael into the England squad is that competitiveness you need in games like Ukraine away.
"But the pair of them have to get to grips with the type of games we've been playing recently, and have enough around them to protect them.
"Mattie and Michael need to get that part of their game going and that will take them to the next level."
Talking of grit and determination, Steve Lomas may well return to action at the weekend after playing in the reserves midweek alongside Don Hutchison - who is doubtful with a groin strain.
"We have missed Lomy's presence in midfield and he is in contention," says Alan.
With Steve Bywater suspended, David Forde provides goalkeeping back-up on the bench to Pavel Srnicek, who will make his West Ham debut.
"Pavel has been terrific since he's been here - a real bonus in the squad with the things he says.
"He is vocal in the dressing room and of course he has vast experience - there will be no problem with him," says Alan.
SQUAD: Srnicek, Forde, Repka, Dailly, Melville, Harley, Harewood, Lomas, Carrick, McAnuff, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Connolly, Zamora, Nowland, Deane, Hutchison, Mullins, Quinn, Horlock, Ferdinand, Carole, Cohen.