Derby County have really turned a corner under Wayne Rooney as caretaker manager, and 2021 looks set to be a prosperous one at Pride Park.
Things are changing for the Rams after a tough start to the current campaign and with a takeover on the horizon from Bin Zayed International, the club has aspirations of moving up the table and away from the relegation zone.
That’s easier said than done, and the managerial hot-seat needs to be filled permanently at some point, but more importantly the squad probably needs to be freshened up in one way or another.
When the takeover is completed County will probably be able to bring in new signings, but the club are always looking to utilise their impressive academy set-up.
The Rams play in both the under-23 and under-18 Premier League and played against the very best of Europe’s youth in the UEFA Youth League last season, and has produced the likes of Louie Sibley and Jason Knight in the last few years.
Let’s look at three young stars who could be the next in-line to be given regular first team opportunities.
The Scottish sensation is a natural goalscorer and his stats prove it – 10 goals in 13 under-18 Premier League games in the 2018/19 campaign, 12 goals in 13 games last season in the same division and on his step up to under-23 level, Stretton has netted eight goals in nine outings already.
That kind of form doesn’t go unnoticed, and Rooney – once a young hotshot himself – has given the 19-year-old three opportunities so far from the bench in the first team.
They were only brief run-outs, but if Stretton maintains his form in 2020 then we could end up seeing a new scoring sensation in Derby’s first team – and boy do they need one right now.
The younger brother of Mansfield Town star Kellan – a former Derby County graduate himself – Kaide has already been making headlines after making his first team debut last week in the 4-0 win over Birmingham City.
The 16-year-old was always going to make headlines off the back of that, and his emergence has seen big clubs like Liverpool linked with his signature.
With three goals in five under-18 appearances, the future looks bright for Gordon, but he must remain grounded if he’s to remain with the first team squad at such a young age.
A former Man City youth player, midfielder Aghatise is currently starring for Derby’s under-18s and in what has been a poor season so far for that age group, he has perhaps been the stand-out individual.
The German-born 18-year-old has netted twice in nine games and whilst you wouldn’t expect to see him in the first team anytime soon, Aghatise could have a promising future in the under-23 squad presuming he signs professional terms at the end of the current season.