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Steve Nicholson on Derby County

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: July 08, 2014

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PLATES are spinning, I am told.

There has been plenty of transfer talk surrounding Derby County this summer, reports of this player and that player heading to the iPro, stories of bids being made and rejected.

Here are just a few of the names linked in the past few weeks – Alegrian internationals Islam Slimani and Madjid Bougherra, striker Ross McCormack and winger James McClean.

It is, in many ways, the silly season. A time when players’ agents are at their busiest and transfer gossip is rife.

Derby’s new faces to date include signings of potential, ones for the future in goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell, attacking midfielder Alban Bunjaku and winger Alefe Santos (pictured).

The Rams have also landed the experienced Zak Whitbread and Lee Naylor on one-year deals. Both had spells at the club last season.

But Derby have been frustrated on other fronts, notably in their chase for West Bromwich Albion midfielder George Thorne, Middlesbrough striker Lukas Jutkiewicz and Bournemouth right-back Simon Francis.

Thorne has been a target since completing a loan spell at Derby last season when he impressed as a shield in front of the back four.

He proved an important piece in the jigsaw because the team’s approach to games and style of play means a holding midfielder is crucial, as John Eustace showed before Thorne came in.

Albion have rejected two bids from Derby for the player. They have also turned down two transfer requests from Thorne, although having played such cards it is difficult to see how he can stay at the Premier League club.

Bournemouth claim they have dismissed two bids for Francis while Middlesbrough appear to be demanding too much money for Jutkiewicz, in Derby’s view.

Derby, however, do need to strengthen at right-back now that Andre Wisdom has returned to Liverpool. As first-team coach Paul Simpson said, you do not need to be a “rocket scientist” to realise it is a position the club has identified.

So plates are spinning and the Rams are having to play a game of patience just now, as head coach Steve McClaren said yesterday.

Derby enjoyed an excellent transfer window last summer, the club’s most productive for many a year. They landed Lee Grant, Chris Martin and John Eustace on frees, also Craig Forsyth for around £150,000 and striker Johnny Russell for about £700,000.

All were signed in time for pre-season training, all made key contributions in helping the Rams to reach the play-offs.

This transfer window was always likely to be more tricky and require more patience because the club is looking to strengthen from an already solid foundation.

Derby have a good squad and the starting 11 needs attention in only two or three positions at most, compared with around half a dozen positions 12 months ago.

There is also the loan market.

The one thing to bear in mind about loans is the interested club is not in control of its loan targets or timing. The player’s parent club calls the shots.

Derby, it must be remembered, only landed Wisdom and Simon Dawkins with almost three months of last season completed, while Thorne and Patrick Bamford arrived in January.

What should also be remembered is that Derby will continue to support and meet Financial Fair Play guidelines.

Therefore, they will identify targets in a sensible fashion. They will not be reckless in the chase for targets, nor should they be.

Chief executive Sam Rush said following the play-off final: “I think you have to accept that if you are going to get some better quality talent, you are going to have to pay for it, but there is as much skill getting players in on free transfers as there is excitement in paying big fees.”

There was never going to be wild changes to the squad.

“I think history tells us that those teams who are successful after going close to promotion take a calm and methodical approach,” Rush said. “We have a young squad that we expect to get better. There is no need for root and branch change, but if we can find additions to strengthen an already stong squad we will do that.”

McClaren, in unison with Rush, said the first task was to keep the squad intact.

They have made important inroads by handing Craig Bryson, Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick, Craig Forysth and Jake Buxton new long-term deals.

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