Improvement in Rams’ squad to be key

In recent years, under the stewardship of Nigel Clough, the Rams haven’t been blessed with many options for the starting eleven. However, this season it appears to be a different story.

The side has probably took little thinking over for Clough over the past few seasons, that’s why this season’s squad depth is so very pleasing to see. You can never have enough options in the Championship, the toughness of the league shouldn’t be underestimated. In addition to that, and with competition for various places on the pitch rife, players should surely be at their best to keep hold of their place in the side.

From last week’s draw to Blackburn, six changes were made for the League Cup victory at Oldham. Then five changes to the victorious Cup starting eleven were made for the win at Brighton.

Some fans would argue that the side are a bit light at the back in terms of experience as Shaun Barker remains out. It appears that the club will only dip into the loan market for a new centre-back if either of Richard Keogh or Jake Buxton are struck by injury. It’s a fair point that Derby are a tad light of players with a good amount of Championship experience, particularly to cover, though I am focussing on the overall picture – there are an array of options in the side.

Even Jamie Ward was left out at the AMEX on Saturday, possibly due to tactical reasons but would that have happened to a fit Ward a year ago? I think not.

The squad has gradually been assembled and contains players that Clough has hand-picked himself and not poor, inherited players or ones his mere budget could only stretch to.

Lee Grant is clearly a shrewd bit of business to be snapped up on a free. The defence in front of him have made a steady start to the season. A battle between Kieron Freeman and Spurs loan star Adam Smith could be brewing for the right-back spot. The ex-Forest man’s assist for Martin’s second goal yesterday will surely only help him.

In midfield, well, how just do you combine Craig Bryson, Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Paul Coutts into the same eleven? A tough task but managed effectively yesterday. Furthermore, John Eustace is an option – as are Michael Jacobs and Ben Davies as wide men in midfield.

Up top, Chris Martin is proving to be a hit. Fellow new signing Johnny Russell appears to be a lively thorn for defenders in the Championship. Behind them, are Conor Sammon, a regular last season, and Jamie Ward, Michael Jacobs and Mason Bennett, who can all also play in midfield.

It’s easy to point out that, of course, Derby did have back-up last season and before, less of it however, but this season there is more quality on the bench to bring on. 21-year-old Michael Jacobs and his fellow youngsters are only maturing and gathering more experience, which is vitally beneficial.

The striking department was bolstered well this summer with Martin and Russell, who are both better options than available priorly. You won’t find many better midfields than the Rams’. So, Derby’s squad is quite (maybe an extra centre-back short) well-equipped to face and hopefully excel the ever-brutal league that is the Championship.

There still may be frustration that money from the sale of John Brayford hasn’t been reinvested. But, in reality, things do look good within the current crop of players and it’s tough to complain about, particularly after the amazing start to life on the road this season. There’s still January, a month that has rarely seen much ins in recent times for Derby, though.

Before I go, here are highlights from YouTube of yesterday’s fantastic victory at a ground that saw just three home league defeats last season with a side that won just four on the road last season emerging victorious. It was Derby’s second away win since December of last year.

Long may this unbeaten start to the campaign continue!

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