DARREN Wassall has hailed the “camaraderie” at Derby County after the first team joined the youth team to celebrate reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup last night.
The Rams under-18 side’s dream of emulating stars of the past and making history for the club were kept alive as they comfortably beat 2008 champions Manchester City 2-0 thanks to goals from Adam Wixted and Jamie Hanson, setting up a last-eight clash at home to reigning title holders Chelsea.
And they were cheered on at Pride Park by manager Nigel Clough and the entire first-team squad, who rearranged their own training schedule to watch the match, and were in the dressing room before and after the match to, respectively, encourage and congartulate their young colleagues.
Wassall said: “It sums up the manager and the camaraderie of Derby County, from the academy to the first-team as both staff and players, that they were all here watching.
“The first-team actually put their training schedule back so they could train in the afternoon and then come to Pride Park at night, and they were in the dressing room wishing the lads well and then part of the celebrations afterwards.
“It’s fantastic and brilliant for the players in the academy that the people above them and those they look up to, are so interested in their development.
“That doesn’t happy at many clubs and it’s a special thing, which we don’t take for granted.”
The young Rams – who have never reached the final of the competition – beat Gateshead and Ipswich Town in rounds three and four, but showed they can mix it with the big boys by seeing off the expensively-assembled youth team of the current Premier League champions.
Wassall said: “We’re delighted and thrilled with the lads because their performance was exceptional from the first minute to the last, and they’ve done Derby County proud.
“Manchester City have some extremely talented players in their squad, signed from the likes of Real Madrid and Benfica, so to come out on top over the 90 minutes is fantastic for everyone connected with the club.
“The attitude, application, desire and character of the players was superb and we’re really proud of them.
“We defended well and as a team, and crucially we took our chances at key times.
“We’ve had some great results in the past, scoring six at Middlesbrough in the league and defeating Arsenal in the cup last season, but this result is probably up there with the best result we’ve had since we joined in 2009.”
MEANWHILE, Will Hughes, who has missed Derby’s last two matches, has been ruled out of tomorrow’s home game against Crystal Palace, kick-off 7.45pm and league leaders Cardiff City next Tuesday.
The highly-rated midfielder, 17, is suffering with a groin problem and the club want to make sure he is fully recovered before returning him to the playing squad.