It really is a huge summer ahead for Derby County. Putting the current league position and form aside, it must be time for Derby to make that leap into a more competitive side for promotion next season. Crowds are already down and don’t look like rising until the team’s position improves. Surely next year it will, surely – but this is something some supporters said ahead of the current campaign when last season was concluding.
For me, it has to be Nigel Clough’s season to prove he’s the man to take the club forward. Some people would argue he’s been given enough time, maybe so but he deserves one more crack at it for me. He’s reduced the wage bill significantly after a disastrous spell with Paul Jewell and has, actually, formed a squad of some very good talents, some on good deals and others through the club’s youth system, but need the extra few additions to make a stride forward. We’ve seen times where the team have looked superb this season and every bit as good as those fighting at the top but we’ve also seen times when the team can’t hold out teams from winning positions and squander so many chances.
Chief Executive Sam Rush has insisted that more money coming into the club will be spent on the playing side of things and if the Rams are to be more successful on the pitch then money does need to be spent. Rush, at a recent fans’ question and answer session, stated that the club are looking at around six additions in the summer; two defenders, two midfielders and two strikers. He conceded that there will be outs however he did say that the main squad aren’t for sale, they’ll only go for very large fees. To have a senior pro in midfield and a more physical side is the aim.
The club are looking at bringing in Craig Forsyth, who’s currently a loanee at Pride Park from promotion-chasing Watford, where he is out of the plans. Chris Martin, currently on-loan from Norwich, has the remaining games to prove he’s worth a punt next season because his Norwich City deal expires this summer. The Rams are understood to have been watching Blackpool defender Alex Baptiste, whose deal on the sea-side expires this summer. Nottingham Forest striker Darius Henderson has been linked with a move to Pride Park in the press, his deal’s up at the end of the season and has a lot of goals and experience to his name at this level. Portsmouth’s Jed Wallace is another name to be linked with Derby.
Premier League interest in defender John Brayford is thought to be high. For me, he’s easily one of the best full-backs outside the top flight. It’d be difficult to stand in the player’s way if he was offered the challenge of a step up but the Rams should drive a hard bargain, we’ve seen players with talent and potential leave the club for a far too small fee in the past. Meanwhile, hot prospect Will Hughes has extended his contract with Derby by a further year – meaning it’ll run to 2016.
Could either, or maybe both of them be sold? I wouldn’t look on it as a totally bad thing if one of them were to be sold, providing it was for the best fee the Rams could get and that it’d be reinvested back in the squad. In the right-back position Derby perhaps have a ready-made replacement in Kieron Freeman and as for Hughes we’ve noticed that he, at his tender age for Championship football, has struggled to show some of the form we saw in the earlier parts of the current campaign. Whether it’s because he’s become more of a marked man or, like I said, his age and lack of experience it all amounts to his age, he can’t run the show all year round it as current age, and even next season, so shouldn’t be solely depended on – hence the reason for more additions and experience. I still believe he’s a super talent and is most definitely one for the future.
As I’ve just tried to outline, the transfers Derby make this summer are pivotal and should be made with the intention of achieving a top six place. Manager Nigel Clough was quoted, in the Derby Telegraph, saying “We expect to add experience to the squad in the summer, if we can get ourselves a few players coming in. There might be one or two leaving to fund that. We will see how that goes in the next few weeks.” The article reminded readers that they shouldn’t instantly believe that the ‘one or two’ that could exit are going to be the likes of John Brayford and Will Hughes. He could be referring to some of the players that are seemingly no longer in the club’s plans, such as James Bailey.
It has almost become an annual thing that the Rams have a brief flirt with the top six, or even get in there for a short while, but making a sustained push has proved a stumbling block. I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a proper push next season, otherwise it may be time to move on for the current manager and staff.
Finally, some of you may be thinking that I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit here. Yes Derby aren’t safe from relegation yet this season but it’s also key to plan ahead for, what should be, another summer of huge importance to the club and their supporters, who are desperate for success. I’m sure it’ll be in the Championship but, unfortunately, we can’t rule out League One due to the hugely competitive nature of the league and that the Rams are just four points above the drop zone.
Up the Rams!