Liam Thompson shone on his debut for Derby County in 2021.

Hit with a 21-point deduction, the Rams bravely battled relegation under Wayne Rooney but ultimately fell short as their fate was sealed and a return to the third division for the first time since 1986 was confirmed.

Despite the gloomy nature that dropping down a division often brings, there were plenty of bright sparks throughout Derby’s campaign and Thompson was briefly one of them.

In November, and with the Rams sat firmly in the relegation zone, promotion chasing Bournemouth visited Pride Park and left empty handed as Rooney’s men ran out 3-2 winners.

The biggest surprise on the day, however, was Thompson’s name on the team sheet. Then 19 years of age, the Derby academy graduate was handed a full debut and excelled as he put in a man-of-the-match display.

Derby County v Bournemouth - Sky Bet Championship
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Speaking after the game, Rooney was full of praise for the young midfielder.

“He was excellent,” said the former Rams boss.

“It is as good a debut as I have seen, and that shows the trust that I have got in him to play him for 90 minutes against the top of the league.”

Unfortunately for Thompson, that performance has proven hard to top. Perhaps he performed beyond his reach due to the occasion, as he has since struggled for minutes in the famous black and white.

He made another 23 appearances during the 2021/22 season without registering a goal or assist.

A change of manager twice ensued at the beginning of the 2022/23 season as interim manager Liam Rosenior was soon shifted for serial League One promotion winner Paul Warne.

The Englishman managed just 24 appearances in total for the Rams during the last campaign, 11 of which came in cup competitions, although he did score his first goal for the club in a 5-0 victory over Torquay United in the FA Cup.

Derby County v Torquay United: Emirates FA Cup First Round Replay
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With his minutes seriously limited, Thompson headed on loan to National League outfit Scunthorpe United. He made just three appearances due to injury, rendering him unable to help the Iron as they fell to the sixth tier.

Now into the final year of his contract, this is a vital season for the 21-year-old’s Derby future.

He has played a large part in the Rams’ pre-season schedule to date, occupying his usual position in the centre of midfield alongside a newfound position as left-wing-back, and has reaped praise from the Derby faithful.

What is next for Thompson?

Thompson is no doubt a talented lad, and seems to have improved with the ball at his feet over the summer.

It seemed at one point that his time with the Rams may well have been over, but there is now every chance that he could become a useful member of the squad if his pre-season performances are anything to go by. Especially if he is able to provide cover as a left-wing-back, a position that Warne is hoping to strengthen.

Simply put, Thompson has to make his mark this season if he is to stick around.

Should he continue in this vein of form, then he could be well on track to do just that.