ONE of the big success stories of Nigel Clough’s reign at Derby County has been the emergence of home grown players.
Last season both Jeff Hendrick and Mark O’Brien became regulars in the matchday squad.
Both of these young lads hail from southern Ireland and performed exceptionally well in their first full season as regular team members.
A few other youngsters are also set to make the move up in the near future too!
In the case of O’Brien, his emergence came only months after having serious heart surgery.
He deputised early last season for injured captain Shaun Barker and did a fantastic job. A knee injury halted his progress mid season, but he has returned since and continues to impress and do a capable job in defence.
Jeff Hendrick has become an automatic choice in the centre of Derby’s midfield. Voted ‘Young Player of the Season’ in 2011/12 he’s a fine example of quality academy graduates. Jeff needs no introduction to East Midlands football fans as he was scorer of the winning goal at Nottingham Forest last year.
After an indifferent start this season, he has recaptured the form that has had the Premier League Scouts watching him.
Jeff recently was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad and I’ve no doubt will become a regular in the green jersey.
Will Hughes made his full debut in the final game of last season and hasn’t missed a match since.
The 17-year-old shows the skill and vision of a seasoned pro. His passing, tackling and his ability to read the game has had many people including former professionals comparing him with Liam Brady.
Hughes has been subject to rumours that he could attract a big money bid from the Premier League in the summer. Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and even Barcelona are said to be ‘keeping tabs’ on his progress. Former Forest legend Stuart Pearce, the England Under-21 manager is amongst the many who rate Hughes highly.
Just on the fringes of the first team is Shirebrook lad Mason Bennett.
Bennett made his full debut last season whilst only 15 years old. He recently became Derby’s youngest ever scorer when netting against Tranmere in the FA Cup. Mason certainly has the talent and who knows? It may be him that is writing the headlines next season.
Josh Lelan and Kwame Thomas have made the bench, but are yet to make their full debuts for the club.
Charles Vernam is a current scholar at Moor Farm who is tipped for big things. He recently switched to Derby from Scunthorpe and once had trials for AC Milan.
There’s no doubt that the hard work put in by Darren Wassall, Craig Short and co is really beginning to pay dividends.
It’s a lesson for all clubs to learn too! Big spending at this level is often a short term fast fix.
Invest in your future and look further ahead than the current season.