Gary Rowett has been pleased with the number of young players reaching the senior squad at Derby County this season.
On Tuesday night, Derby County hosted Queens Park Rangers in the EFL Championship and ran out 2-0 victors. A successful evening for the Rams was topped off when 18 year-old Luke Thomas replaced goalscorer Tom Lawrence in the last few minutes for his senior debut.
Despite not being able to make an impact, it was yet another positive sign for Derby as Thomas hasn’t been the first youth player to break through into the first team this season.
Rowett explained: “That’s four or five players we’ve now given debuts to this season in competitive football. I think the under 23s and the academy in general are doing some fantastic work.”
Thomas has been impressing in the Derby Under 23 squad having returned from a short loan spell at Gloucester City the previous season.
“I think Luke is probably the stand out one that has performed week in, week out for the Under 23’s.” Rowett added:
“He’s scored goals and been very, very good. At some point, you need that next step. It’s been difficult because we have around 26 first team players but a few injuries gave him that opening. I thought it’s be nice to get him on the pitch for five minutes.”
Promoting young, talented individuals has become a grey area for many of the large English-based clubs in recent years. However, since Rowett’s arrival Derby, fans have seen many of their academy and under 23 talents grace the turf at the iPro stadium.
Rowett said: “We came into the club with a specific plan. Mel Morris particularly wants there to be a really good pathway and he felt that perhaps hadn’t quite been focused on enough previously. That’s not a criticism, just the way it is.”