Derby County fans have had it tough over the past four seasons – a late defeat to Queens Park Rangers in the 2014 Championship playoff final, followed by season after season of near misses.
The Rams lost manager Gary Rowett to Stoke City earlier this summer and replaced him with Frank Lampard – his first job in football management.
Whether Derby can seriously be considered as genuine promotion contenders this season with an inexperienced manager in charge remains to be seen, but what Lampard does bring in is a list of contacts. Don’t be surprised if he can negotiate a few good deals with former club Chelsea, and maybe even Manchester City.
Here are five players Frank Lampard and Derby County could be looking to bring in before the start of their 2018-19 Championship campaign:
1. Ola Aina (Chelsea)
The young Nigerian full-back spent last season on loan in the Championship with Hull City where he impressed at right-back. Derby County currently have former-Liverpool youngster Andre Wisdon playing out there where he has been a big liability. Wisdom was notably at fault for Fulham’s first goal in the Championship playoff semi-final second leg at Craven Cottage.
Ola Aina may not be great defensively himself but many would still consider him an upgrade on what Derby currently have. What’s more, he offers good pace getting forward to support the attacks. Given that he’s at Chelsea, Lampard should certainly have the opportunity to bring the 21-year-old in on loan if he so desires.
2. Gareth Barry (West Bromwich Albion)
Derby County have had some great attack-minded central midfielders in recent seasons but they’ve never really had an out-and-out holding midfielder. Tom Huddlestone doing the defensive duties isn’t ideal for them, neither is George Thorne, when fit.
Gareth Barry himself isn’t an out-and-out defensive midfielder, but his experience in the middle of the park alongside Tom Huddlestone could make him an excellent addition to the Derby team in protecting the back four and looking after possession. Frank Lampard has been a colleague of Barry’s for the England national team so they may have each other’s numbers!
3. Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea)
The opposite approach to bringing in an experienced midfielder is to bring in a youngster. Chelsea have a record for sending out their youngsters on loan season after season. 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu has yet to be loaned out and did make the odd appearance for the Blues last season.
Ampadu is an out-and-out defensive midfielder and could solve Derby County’s void here. Playing in front of the experienced Curtis Davies and Richard Keogh at centre-back, and then alongside Tom Huddlestone in midfield, could only be a positive thing for the youngster’s future. This could be the season the Welsh youngster is sent out on loan and Derby seems like a good option for him.
4. Patrick Roberts (Manchester City)
Derby County really fell flat on their back in attack during the second half of last season as Gary Rowett essentially destroyed what he had inherited. Matej Vydra’s goals dried up and the odd victory they had in 2018 was often courtesy of the individual excellence of Tom Lawrence more than anything else.
With Andreas Weimann being sold to Bristol City this summer and Johnny Russell not being replaced in January, you can expect Frank Lampard to bring in at least one wide man. Patrick Roberts could certainly be an option here. Though the youngster started off as a striker he has predominately played on the right wing during a two-year loan spell at Celtic. There’s no doubt he has the ability to be a regular in the Derby team, and the Championship is definitely an upgrade on the Scottish Premier League to test himself if the former Fulham man has any ambition to break into the Manchester City team one day.
5. Kasey Palmer (Chelsea)
Kasey Palmer spent the second half of last season on loan at Derby County after they missed out on bringing Ademola Lookman to Pride Park. The Chelsea youngster spent most of the spell on the bench but did get plenty of game time towards the very end of the campaign.
The 21-year-old showed flashes of brilliance in the Championship, capable of taking on players, creating chances and scoring the odd goal. He’s a long way from being part of the Chelsea first team next season so a full season on loan in the Championship is likely to where he’ll be in 2018-19, and surely Frank Lampard and Derby will have first option on him.