The final whistle may only have been blown on Saturday afternoon, but Derby’s recruitment plans for next season are clearly already well advanced. They probably would have been even more so, had mathematical safety not taken so long to achieve (no criticism there – I have a lot of sympathy for poor Peterborough United, who go down with 54 points, which would have kept them up in any other season).
Clough has said that he wants to bolster the spine of the side and duly, a goalkeeper, centre back and two strikers are among the first batch of confirmed targets. However, midfield is a different matter, as Clough has a bona fide ‘selection headache’ to resolve there.
As Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes get better and better, their fellow centre midfielder, Craig Bryson, has reached the final 12 months of his current contract. As we all know, he has done really well for the duration of his stay, with 11 goals to add to his seemingly limitless dynamism, determination and drive. Having signed for £450,000 from Kilmarnock, he has provided full value and you would hope that, if he leaves, that the Rams would turn a profit on him.
The policy of the club, as clearly stated on countless occasions, is to go with the youth. And since we have produced at least two future international-class players from our academy, that policy is clearly already paying dividends. Those dividends may mean that we can release the more experienced Bryson in order to strengthen the squad elsewhere.
Of course, nobody wants to see good players leave, but what a difficult situation this is for Clough. Does he bench Hughes or Hendrick? Does he play Bryson out of position on the left? Or does he change the formation to 4-3-3, moving away from a team shape which has delivered excellent home form this season (it might be an idea to use that formation in away games, but that’s another blogpost)?
There’s also Bryson’s perspective to consider. He will doubtless not be short of offers from other Championship clubs. Would he sign an extension at Derby if he wasn’t guaranteed to be in the team, in his best position? Certainly, he will ‘do a job’ for you out wide, but in the same sense that Paul Green ‘did a job’ on the right. You lose the best qualities of the player that way.
So do we keep Bryson for the last year of his deal, thus missing out on a potential transfer fee now? Or do we just go with the two young rising stars and see where they can take us? It’s one of the most interesting questions of the summer, for me. Nigel, it’s over to you.