CONOR Sammon has brushed off speculation linking him with a January move away from Derby County – insisting he is “100 per cent focused” on his role with the Rams.
The Republic of Ireland international has found his first-team chances limited at Pride Park this season.
And the striker could be a January transfer target for Ipswich Town and Blackburn Rovers, according to reports.
But Sammon, who came off the bench to score a late winner against Middlesbrough on Wednesday to send Derby up to fourth in the Championship table, is determined to keep fighting for his place in Steve McClaren’s side.
“I’m 100 per cent focused at Derby,” said the 27-year-old frontman. “I’m really enjoying it and the way we’ve been playing recently, it’s been great to be a part of.
“I know it’s a squad game. I’d love to be playing more but it’s up to me to train hard and work hard, and try to force my way in.
“That’s definitely where my mind is and that’s my ambition from now until the end of the season.
“I’m really happy at Derby and I’m enjoying challenging for my place in the team.
“I think we do have something special going on here.
“We’ve got great characters in the team, we’ve got good footballers and we’ve got such togetherness between the players and the staff at the club.
“It’s incredible and something I’ve never experienced before. It’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of.”
Sammon has started only one league game this term, making 14 appearances as a substitute.
This is in stark contrast to last season, when he started 44 matches in all competitions, scoring nine goals.
However, the £1.2 million signing from Wigan Athletic remains philosophical about his current situation.
“It’s frustrating being a sub, when I played a good bit last season,” he admitted.
“But the manager likes to play one up front and, in fairness, Chrissy Martin has been outstanding.
“He’s been playing really well and got his 10th goal of the season against Middlesbrough, which is a super tally to be on at this stage.
“His overall game is brilliant as well, so I know I need to just keep focused and training hard.”
Sammon netted a late winner at Watford in October and did likewise against Boro, beating compatriot Shay Given to seal a 2-1 victory in the 90th minute.
“I think scrappy is the word that describes it,” he said.
“Jeff (Hendrick) played a really good ball in and Will Hughes got a great flick on it.
“You wouldn’t expect him to be there but fair play to him and it put me through on goal.
“I only had eyes on the ball coming over my shoulder, ready to put my foot on it.
“Their defender (George Friend) made a last-ditch tackle and he was really unlucky that it came straight off me and looped over the goalkeeper.
“But from our point of view, we were delighted and I was delighted to help get the winner.
“When I went on and we had two up front, it would have been easy to just launch the ball forward but we kept patient, kept passing it and trying to create openings.
“It probably didn’t look like we were going to get that winner but we did and credit to the boys for keeping going.
“These are the kind of results that could be massive come the end of the season.”
Martin put Derby ahead on the stroke of half-time after Boro striker Curtis Main had been sent off for a second bookable offence in only the 34rd minute.
Dean Whitehead put the 10 men level in the 74th minute, prompting McClaren to bring on Johnny Russell and Sammon, having already introduced Hendrick at the break.
“After they got the equaliser, we had about 15 minutes to get a winner and I was hoping I might get on at some stage,” said Sammon.
“Thankfully, that happened. I got an opportunity and I was delighted to be in the right place at the right time, and help us get the three points.
“The manager makes a really good point about subs being real impact players and making sure that we’re always ready for whenever you’re called upon.
“It was one of those nights for us, with Jeff, Johnny and myself coming on.
“It was a big win for us and it’s really pleasing to be a part of it.”