NIGEL Clough has hailed the knock-on effect which Derby County’s clutch of international call-ups have had upon the Rams’ stars of the future this week.
Nine of the squad have been jetting to various loactions around the world to represent their country, and this has allowed a handful of players from the club’s academy to train with the first-team at Moor Farm.
The likes of Jamie Hanson, who scored the winning goal for the Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup, and Charles Vernam, on day release from school ahead of becoming a scholar at Pride Park next season, are just two of the players who have stepped up to the first-team pitches.
Clough said: “We’ve had a quiet week with a number of players on international duty, so we have used it as a chance to bring the academy lads into the first-team squad.
“We had four or five with us on Tuesday and we did the same on Wednesday as well.
“It’ll be a good experience for them and it’s a continuation of what we do anyway, in terms of having a few of the kids training with us from time to time.
“We have got some promising talent coming through the Academy and this week was a good opportunity to get them involved with us.”
Six of the players who have started the last three matches were called up, and although Jamie Ward later withdrew, Clough admitted it was a new experience for him, and that he had fresh sympathy for Premier League managers now.
He said: “It’s actually a situation we’ve not been in before, although in one way we’re not complaining and we’ve coped with it the best we can.
“We know how the Premier League managers feel now, talking about their players being away all week in the lead-up to a game – but given the type of characters and lads we have here, it won’t be a big issue and we’ll deal with it.”
Will Hughes kicked things off by playing 45 minutes for England Under-21s on Tuesday, but last night the Rams broke new ground by having three players on the pitch at the same time for the Republic of Ireland.
Conor Sammon played the full 90 minutes of the 2-0 win over Poland alongside West Bromwich Albion’s Shane Long up front, while Jeff Hendrick came off the bench with 19 minutes to go and set up Eire’s second goal.
Richard Keogh completed the hat-trick when he played the final six minutes.
Hendrick was hailed for his immediate impact, setting up Wes Hoolahan’s goal five minutes after his introduction with a delightful ball in behind the Polish defence that the Norwich City star lash home.
In the early hours of yesterday morning, Theo Robinson came off the bench for the final half-hour of Jamaica’s World Cup qualifier in Mexico City and helped the Reggae Boyz to a creditable draw against El Tricolor.
Defenders Kieron Freeman and Valentin Gjokaj both played the full 90 minutes for Wales and Albania Under-21s respectively in their friendlies against Iceland and Macedonia.
Full-back Freeman started at left-back as Wales pulled off an impressive 3-0 win at Stebonheath Park in Llanelli on Wednesday afternoon, while Switzerland-born Gjokaj, who qualifies for Albania through his parents, earned his first cap in a 0-0 draw with Macedonia.
Centre-back Mark O’Brien was the unlucky member of the international bunch as he did not feature for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s as they pulled off an impressive 3-0 victory over Holland in Ireland.
Mason Bennett, who will be away with England Under-17s at the Algarve Tournament until Tuesday, is not in action until today.