Supporters of Derby County have become pretty familiar with the term ‘transition period’ over the last decade, but once again the Rams find themselves in a position where big changes are needed in order to move the club forwards.
Wayne Rooney, accompanied by Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker, took the reigns from Phillip Cocu following his sacking in November. Rooney then took full charge midway through January with Derby rooted to the bottom of the Sky Bet Championship table.
The former Manchester United man led his new side out of the relegation zone and seemingly away from danger, ten points clear of the bottom three by gameweek 33 after a string of impressive results. The Rams’ form matched that of a side fighting for a play-off spot, though things have changed once more.
A huge dip in form, beginning with a 4-0 away defeat against Cardiff City, has seen Rooney’s men sucked right back into the battle for survival. Without a win in seven and just five points clear of the drop zone, the final eight matches of the season are set to be nail-biters.
The poor results this season have led to a number of players having their performances questioned, some of whom may be let go at the end of the season.
I’ve taken a look at three players in particular that I feel should leave the club this summer, for either the good of the side or themselves.
Signed for £5m under Frank Lampard, Martyn Waghorn is now in the final year of his contract and it might make more sense for that deal not to be renewed.
Playing mainly as a striker in his first season at the club, ‘Waggy’ looked to fit the bill. The rambunctious forward played a pivotal part in the Rams making it to the play-off final, finishing his inaugural campaign as the club’s second top scorer, behind only the sensational Harry Wilson.
13 goals and four assists was a decent return for one of Lampard’s marquee signings, a return more or less matched in the following season as the striker born in South Shields totalled a further 12 goals and four assists under Phillip Cocu.
Waghorn has been nothing short of a shadow of his former self this season, scoring just three goals in his 28 appearances so far. To make matter worse, only one has been from open play.
The 31-year-old now seemingly lacks what it takes to be a top striker at Championship level, with his end product regularly called into question, looking elsewhere for a younger replacement when possible would likely benefit the Rams moving forwards.
Jayden Mitchell-Lawson made his Derby debut in 2019, playing the final few minutes of a 0-0 draw with Stoke City and to be fair to him, he looked quite promising.
Fast forward just under two years and the winger has made only two more first team appearances for the Rams, totalling just over 20 minutes combined.
A lack of depth in the wide positions over the last couple of seasons has been frequently highlighted by supporters, yet despite the poor form out wide, Mitchell-Lawson has not been deemed ready by Lampard, Cocu or Rooney, which is ultimately telling.
The 21-year-old spent the first half of the current campaign on loan at Bristol Rovers in League One. In his 18 appearances for The Gas, the youngster managed two goals and two assists; fairly average numbers for a winger in the third tier, not statistics that back his case for more minutes for the Rams.
For his own good, it would probably be best for Mitchell-Lawson to move on in the next transfer window or face another year with the club’s U23s. Plenty of younger players have already had their break in the senior side, that ship has almost certainly now sailed for the academy graduate.
Curtis Davies has been one hell of a signing for Derby, a consistent stalwart of a defender since putting pen to paper with the Rams back in 2017 for roughly just £500,000.
The centre-back has racked up over 100 appearances for the club, scoring just once against his former club Hull City.
His experience has been a huge factor throughout his stay at the club, even when sidelined, but unfortunately for Davies the sideline has become far too familiar due to two lengthy injuries.
An Achilles tendon rupture in the 2018/19 season saw him miss 35 matches, luckily Fikayo Tomori was on hand to step in and form a solid partnership with former captain Richard Keogh at the time.
In December 2020, Davies suffered a recurrence of the same injury during a 0-0 draw with Brentford and has missed Derby’s last 23 encounters, it is unlikely he will ever play for the club again.
At 36 years of age and with his contract set to expire in the summer, despite being the current club captain, it would not make much sense to see him offered new terms.
Davies has already stated he has no plans to retire just yet, however, so if we do see him released it will be interesting to see his next port of call.