Easily forgettable due to the sheer briefness of his tenure at the club, there was once a time where Nigel Pearson was manager of Derby County.
Pearson was appointed at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign, preferred over Darren Wassall who, on an interim basis, led the Rams to a 5th place finish the season beforehand.
Four months and 11 days was the length of his reign at the club. Believe it or not, the Nottingham-born ex-Leicester City man signed more players for Derby than he recorded wins.
Four signings, three victories, three draws and six defeats. Let’s take a quick look at where Pearson’s preferred players now ply their trade.
Pearson’s marquee signing – Matěj Vydra.
The Czech Republic international became Derby’s club record signing in the summer of 2016, signing from Watford for a fee believed to be around £8m.
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It’s fair to say that Vydra’s first season with the Rams was underwhelming. Five goals and one assist from 36 appearances wasn’t exactly the return supporters were hoping for from their new record signing.
Under Gary Rowett the following season, however, prime Vydra was here for all to see. The Championship’s top goal scorer. 22 goals, 4 assists in 44 appearances. It’s no surprise that Premier League clubs came calling.
Soon after Frank Lampard took charge in the summer of 2018, Vydra sealed his return to England’s top flight by signing for Burnley. The Clarets paid an estimated fee of around £11m for the sharpshooter’s services.
Halfway through his second season in Lancashire, Vydra certainly hasn’t hit the heights expected of him. He’s made 58 appearances for Burnley in total with just seven goals and four assists to his name.
Frequently linked with a move away from the Clarets throughout the last transfer window, it’s actually a surprise that the Czech is still apart of Sean Dyche’s squad for the remainder of the season.
Now a 28-year-old, Vydra won’t be wishing to spend much more time on the Turf Moor bench. For that reason alone it’s certainly a possibility that the ex-Ram could be on the move again this summer.
The man, the myth, the legend – Ikechi Anya.
Signed for a reported fee of £4m, Anya is perhaps one of the worst pieces of transfer business that Derby have ever conducted.
The Scotsman made 38 appearances for the Rams during his four year stay with the club, none of which came after the 2017/18 campaign. His last appearance was during the Championship play-off semi-final second leg against Fulham in which Rowett’s men lost 2-0.
There are endless theories surrounding Anya’s lack of game time, the most commonly believed is that there was a clause inserted in his contract stating once he had reached a certain number of appearances, Derby would owe Watford a fairly substantial fee.
It ended sourly between Anya and the club due to the winger seemingly refusing to find a new club or even leave the Rams on loan, instead sitting at home and collecting his wage which was believed to be one of the highest in the squad.
He was finally released in 2020 and although there has been no confirmation of his retirement, at 33 years of age and still without a club, it’s a safe bet that Anya’s footballing career is all but over.
Cult hero Chris Weale was signed by Pearson as cover for Scott Carson and Jonathan Mitchell in the goalkeeping department.
Weale made not a single appearance for the Rams first team, however, did feature once for Derby’s U23s in an EFL trophy defeat to Mansfield Town as a 34-year-old.
The goalkeeper made the first team squad just once, warming the bench at Pride Park as Pearson’s side fell to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the EFL Cup.
After his release at the end of the season, Weale donned the Dorchester Town shirt throughout the 2017/18 campaign, making 45 league appearances for the Magpies in the Southern League Premier Division.
In July of 2018, it was announced that the Englishman had signed a one-year contract with Exeter City to become a player-goalkeeper coach with the understanding it was unlikely that he would ever have to feature.
Weale then hung up his gloves in 2019, confirming his retirement as he moved closer to home becoming the Director of Football at Sherborne Private Boys School.
The curious case of James Wilson – once tipped to be the ‘next big thing’ at Manchester United, a career blighted with injuries has significantly decreased his potential.
Pearson signed the youthful striker on a season-long loan deal from the Red Devils, stating that Wilson was “an energetic player who will add to our existing attacking options”. That was before the 20-year-old sustained an ACL injury in training with the Rams.
After just the four first team appearances in a Derby shirt, Wilson retuned to United to undergo surgery and put an abrupt end to his spell in the East Midlands.
It has since been a steady decline for the former academy highflyer.
Following his recovery, he signed on loan for Sheffield United partway through their 2017/18 campaign on their return to the Championship. He managed nine appearances before the end of the season, scoring once prior to departing.
He spent the following campaign on loan with Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership. There he recorded his highest appearance tally in a single season, turning out 32 times for the Dons. Wilson scored four times and registered three assists in advance of signing permanently for Derek McInnes’ side on a free transfer in the summer.
He failed to find the net as a permanent member of the Aberdeen squad, registering three assists in 16 appearances before returning to England in the January transfer window.
Wilson signed for League Two outfit Salford City in January 2020 and has since enjoyed some of his best form to date. Co-owned by Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt, it seems fitting that the former United youth hotshot now plays for the Ammies.
The 25-year-old has featured 20 times this season across all competitions, notching seven goals and a solitary assist for his, still relatively new, team.
You would be right in thinking Wilson’s cards had been cruelly dealt to him throughout his career, however, it looks as though he has found his permanent home in Greater Manchester, playing at a level that suits him.