The Rams may be licking their wounds after another year where they faded away when it mattered most, but focus must turn onto next season.
Rowett has done well to take a cheaply assembled side as far as he did, but the squad is starting to look aged.
It will need an injection of youth, particularly at the back, if another play-off challenge is going to materialise. The average age of the back three and keeper against Fulham in the second leg was over 31. This threatens to leave Derby with an easily exploitable slowing backline if changes aren’t brought in over the summer.
One of the principle targets should be Oxford’s Canice Carroll. At just 19, he has already had a strong showing in League One, helping his side to four clean sheets in his 12 appearances. Combined with being given the captaincy of the Ireland U19s, it is clear that he is a player with real potential.
Getting hold of a player of Carroll’s potential now, while there are experienced hands around to help guide his development, would increase his development. For Derby, it would provide the squad with some much needed depth at the back and protect them from sides looking to get in behind the defence.
It’s going to be difficult for Derby County to build on their latest visit to the play-offs with Gary Rowett constrained by a need to balance the books. Yet as his potential hasn’t been fully realised, Carroll could well be an economical buy that pays large dividends.
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