Derby County swept aside Championship opposition on Saturday afternoon, beating Stoke City 3-0 in their penultimate pre-season fixture ahead of the upcoming campaign thanks to goals from Curtis Nelson, James Collins and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.

The friendly, which was also Craig Forsyth’s testimonial match, turned out to be a pretty comfortable afternoon for Paul Warne’s side as ex-Rams quartet Craig Bryson, Bradley Johnson, Martyn Waghorn and David Nugent all received a runout towards the end.

Collins in particular has caught the eye over the summer. His headed effort yesterday made it three goals in four appearances over pre-season so far, sparking debate over whether he could be the man to step up and replace the void left by the departed David McGoldrick.

The former Luton Town man signed for Derby on a free transfer from Cardiff City last summer and found the back of the net on 12 occasions last season, a handful of which came from the penalty spot, as he largely played an understudy role to McGoldrick in the latter part of the campaign.

Derby County v Barnsley: Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images

It is no secret that the Rams are in need of forward reinforcements before they kick start their second season in League One since relegation to the third tier, but Collins now appears to be proving his worth and could well cement his place in the starting XI regardless of any potential arrivals in attack.

One thing that the 32-year-old lacked during the last campaign was service. He was League One’s top goal scorer during the 2018/19 season with Luton, and large parts of his success came down to being in the right area at the right time, finishing a hatful from close range. With the right service, he knows how to score.

Is this Collins’ year?

During pre-season, and no small part down to the arrival of exciting wing-back Ward, Collins has consistently had the ball fed into him in the right areas and taken full advantage as a poacher. He finally appears to have the players around him that allow him to play to his strengths.

Scoring 12 goals is not to be sniffed at, but the striker is clearly capable of more. He is making his mark this summer, and may well convince Warne that he is the man to lead the line throughout the upcoming campaign.

In the last year of his contract, this could prove to be a big season which shapes both the future of Collins and Derby.

Related Topics