Luke Plange proved the difference for Derby County at the weekend by grabbing the only goal of the game on his full senior debut against Blackpool.
The 19-year-old, who signed following his release from Arsenal earlier this year, was able to transfer his superb form in Premier League 2 this season onto the Championship stage.
Starting alongside Tom Lawrence in a front two, Plange provides another figure of hope for the Rams in showing just what the future could hold if they can address their off the pitch issues.
As role models go, Wayne Rooney is a very good one for a young striker and the Derby manager gave his assessment of Plange’s progress when he spoke to The Athletic.
He said: “You see his attributes. He is a big lad, he can handle himself and he held the ball up well.
“He has been playing for the under-23s and scoring goals, and goalscorers on the pitch sniff chances out. I know it is a tap-in, but it is a great striker’s goal. It was not just his goal, either, his work rate was fantastic, some of his movement and runs in behind were really good.”
Plange could be set for a run in the side due to some availability struggles particularly at the top of the pitch, with Derby heading into a must win game on Saturday at fellow relegation threatened side Cardiff City.
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It was one of the feel good moments of the weekend to see Plange capitalise on a rebound from Kamil Jozwiak’s shot and earn the three points for the Rams. Rooney has given a platform for so many younger players already this season which must give Plange confidence on settling into the first team picture. To respond to being released from a club the size of Arsenal the way he has, points towards a strong character and in that Derby have an attacking player of very exciting potential.
The youthful exuberance in the Derby squad has been key to their impressive form through trying circumstances this term, hopefully Plange can backup his first senior goal in the lead-up to the busy Christmas period and keep the club’s survival hopes alive.