Derby County haven’t had an easy ride so far this season, having been slapped with a points deduction that sees them sink to the bottom of the Championship table.
Despite the Rams propping up the league though, there has to be some commendation given to the squad of players and boss Wayne Rooney for the work they have done with the odds stacked against them. With three wins so far, they’ve won more than five of the teams above them and have lost only three times so far this campaign.
In some pretty difficult circumstances then, a number of players have risen to the challenge and put in the shifts needed to try and boost them out of the relegation places and back to safety. They could be a lot higher up the table – and if they continue to grind out results, then they could certainly climb back to safety.
There is still a long way to go and points to be won and lostbut here then, is our pick for the best Derby County starting XI so far this season.
GK – Ryan Allsop
This was a tough first pick, with both Ryan Allsop and Kelle Roos having some good performances to their name so far this season. However, with three matches and two clean sheetsunder his belt so far, the odds have to tip in favour of the former of the two.
Having stepped in for the last two games, the 29-year old has looked very reliable in between the sticks. He was one of the main reasons the Rams picked up a valuable three points against Reading, as he kept the Royals at bay all afternoon in a tightly-contested 1-0 win. He then followed that up with another clean sheet against Swansea to keep his team in the game despite the away side having 15 shots in the match, nine of which were on target.
You could say then, that the last four points out of a possible six have in no small part been down to his heroics in goal – and if he keeps it up, then Roos may have to get used to sitting on the bench for the time being.
LB – Lee Buchanan
Another close call here between Lee Buchanan and Craig Forsyth but it’s the 20-year old who claims it for some solid showings here and there despite his youth.
He hasn’t shied away from the challenge at hand with Derby despite his tender age so far and has already racked up over 50 career appearances for the Rams already. This year he has remained a squad regular, as he has started games and featured from the bench.
With each fresh experience he is growing as a player and he proved that against Swansea, as he came on for Richard Stearman and looked bright as his side kept a clean sheet. He’ll no doubt remain a mainstay in the side as the season draws on.
CB – Curtis Davies
Curtis Davies isn’t just a reliable presence at the back but he’s also the club’s current top goalscorer!
At 36-years-old, he has a wealth of experience to call upon to help Derby in their battle against relegation and he’s done just that so far. Contributing efficiently at both ends, he’s featured in every single league game so far and he’s proven he can still quieten some of the best opposition attackers in the league.
A leader and a key component in the squad, he definitely earns his place in the side.
CB – Phil Jagielka
Phil Jagielka is further proof that age is just a number. At 39 years of age, you’d not be wrong for thinking that the Englishman should surely be winding his career down by now. Instead, he’s embroiled in a battle for survival at Pride Park and he’s seemingly relishing every bit of it.
Another experienced head in a squad full of youth, he is another that is leading by example and has already helped his team to a number of important results. He was vital in helping the Rams keep a clean sheet when West Brom came to down and he did the same against Middlesbrough. He’s still got something left in the tank, of that there is no doubt.
RB – Nathan Byrne
Byrne has been a mainstay in the side so far this year and is capable of some flashes of brilliance on the right flank.
It hasn’t been easy for the 29-year old at times over the course of the 11 games he has featured in but super showings against the likes of rivals Nottingham Forest and Hull have proven that he has what it takes to compete in the second tier.
With his frantic runs forward (he’s made more crosses this year than any other Derby player) and his work-rate to get back and defend at the other end of the field, he has to be in this squad.
CM – Graeme Shinnie
Graeme Shinnie’s calming influence in the centre of the field cannot be understated and he has slowly established himself as one of the most important players in the Derby side regardless of position.
Always involved and never afraid to stick a foot in, the Scotland man has been completely invaluable to the Rams and their cause so far in the campaign. In his team’s game against Stoke, he even bagged himself two assists and dictated the play of the entire game from the centre of the field.
Without him, the club could be in a lot worse of a situation.
CM – Max Bird
To line up alongside Shinnie in the middle, we’ve selected Max Bird, who is another player to have featured in every league game up to this point.
The 21-year old does his defensive work well, breaking up opposition attacks and then setting his teammates off on breaks of their own. Only his midfield partner has won more tackles than him and together they form a solid partnership in the heart of the Rams starting XI.
Bird is yet another young talent who has been thrust into the spotlight at Pride Park but has taken the opportunity with both hands and has become a very exciting prospect. He certainly deserves his place in this side.
RW – Jason Knight
Onto the forward line now and the first choice is Jason Knight. The Irishman has featured in a multitude of positionsbut he’s been thrown onto the right wing here.
In a more attacking role, that’s also where he has seemingly thrived so far too. Against Reading he bagged himself his first assist of the season and he looked lively all the way up until his substitution. He followed that up with another impressive showing against Swansea and in a side that doesn’t always look too threatening in attack, he looks like exactly the kind of creative spark they need. At just 20-years old too, he has the potential to get even better.
CAM – Ravel Morrison
While Ravel Morrison has not always been at the peak of his powers in games so far this season, on a good day you can clearly see why he was once so highly regarded.
With his vision and good link-up play and passing ability, he’s already shown that he can slice through opposition defences and create chances for his side, he just needs to do it on a more regular basis. Make no mistake though, the 28-year oldis the kind of player who can conjure up a bit of magic out of nothing.
LW – Tom Lawrence
Tom Lawrence is still an important part of the Rams forward line and although his contributions at the top end of the pitch have waned slightly, he still works hard for his side and can chip in with the odd goal and assist to boot.
He only has one goal to his name so far this season but bagging chances isn’t all he has to his game. In the Rams victory over Reading, he won more duels than any other player on the field and his dribbling ability can still turn opposition defences inside out.
He also likes a shot or two – he has 13 shots on target in his nine games and that’s more than any other player in the squad.
ST – Sam Baldock
Finishing up the squad is Sam Baldock. The striker is part of a Derby County outfit that isn’t blessed with a wealth of good striking options and he wins the starting berth with one goal to his name so far this campaign.
The attacker hasn’t set the world alight for the Pride Park side but has featured regularly and looks like the best option for Wayne Rooney up front (minus Jack Stretton, who could get more gametime soon).