Derby County will be licking their wounds this summer after missing out on promotion to the Premier League. Frank Lampard’s men fell at the final hurdle, losing 2-1 to Aston Villa in the playoff final at Wembley.
With several players out of contract this summer, Derby are going to have numerous voids to fill. Key loan signings Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori will return to their parent clubs. While it is the end of the line for established senior players such as Bradley Johnson, Craig Bryson, Marcus Olsson, Nick Blackman and Jacob Butterfield.
With that in mind, Derby may utilise their academy graduates more next season. Jayden Bogle has already shown how it can be done. Now, we look at three more rising prospects who could break through next season.
Luke Thomas is highly rated at Derby, and he is a sure-fire certainty to be in the squad next term. The young winger spent last season out on loan at Coventry City, impressing at the League One club.
Harry Wilson’s return to parent club Liverpool opens up a wide spot for Derby. The Rams will likely look for a more established wide player in the summer transfer window, but Thomas will provide further options.
Many Derby supporters feel Max Bird is now ready for the step-up after shining for the U23s, and next season will be his chance.
Bird, 18, has first-team experience already for the Rams. He started in the defeat at Aston Villa back in February, while also featuring for 20 minutes in the 4-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers.
A natural holding midfielder, Bird could be Bradley Jonhson’s long-term replacement.
Calum MacDonald could be another to feature for Derby’s first-team next season. However, much may depend on whether another academy graduate Max Lowe remains at Pride Park or moves on.
Lowe spent the last six months on loan at Aberdeen. The Scottish side seemingly want the left-back to return north of the border, and Derby could grant their wishes.
Scott Malone and Craig Forsyth are Derby’s two senior left-backs. However, both have endured injury problems at Pride Park and MacDonald could find himself called upon for first-team action next term.