Derby County should learn from Matt Clarke’s development at the club and look to sign Portsmouth’s Jack Whatmough on a free transfer this summer.
Clarke was a standout for Portsmouth, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in 2019.
The central defender’s excellent form for Pompey saw Brighton and Hove Albion sign him for £3.5 million in July 2019, before sending him on loan to Derby.
Clarke immediately became a popular figure at Pride Park, winning last year’s Player of the Year award and prompting the Rams to re-sign him on loan this season.
It makes you wonder why Derby didn’t attempt to sign him permanently in 2019.
Clarke’s value will no doubt have increased since his transfer to Brighton, and his return to the Seagulls this summer will leave Derby with a big void to fill at the back.
But one potential replacement could come in the form of another rising talent at Portsmouth.
Whatmough has come through the Pompey academy and made more than 100 appearances for the club in all competitions, while representing England at U20 level.
The 6ft defender’s contract is expiring at the end of the season, and Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley told Portsmouth News this past week how he could easily step up a level.
“What a player. He was really good, excellent. I love him, loved him since the first minute I saw him. He’s a really good player. I like his defending, I like his willingness and the way he can direct play. I like his footwork, I like his one v one defending and I like his anticipation. I think in possession he’s so calm and has a lovely range of passing. He steps in and fixes players. He keeps making exactly the decision I want him to make at exactly the time I want him to make it. I wouldn’t want to put a ceiling on how far he can go, to be honest. I’ve seen the Championship and he’s well, well, well capable of that,” Cowley explained.
Derby must address their defence this summer. Clarke and Teden Mengi’s loan spells will be up, while Andre Wisdom is out of contract at the end of the season.
Wayne Rooney will have his immediate focus on securing Derby’s Championship status, but Whatmough should be a target regardless of what division the Rams are in next season.
At 24, the Pompey defender has plenty of potential to further improve and with Derby financially limited, they may not find a better defensive prospect available on a free this summer.