Gary Rowett’s Derby County will likely go into the 2017/18 Championship campaign as one of the favourites for promotion to the Premier League.
The Rams finished the season with the former Birmingham chief in charge after first dispensing of Nigel Pearson and then Steve McClaren, culminating in a ninth place finish and an overall frustrating campaign at the iPro Stadium.
The East Midlands outfit finished 13 points adrift of the top six, yet with a full pre-season to come and a summer transfer window of backing for the 43-year-old, expectations will be high once again that Derby can finally return to the promised land.
And after years of trying and ultimately coming up short, Rowett may be in the market for experienced pros that can have just as much of an influence off the pitch as they have on it, which is why he should target a move for Brighton midfielder Steve Sidwell.
The 34-year-old played a key role in helping Chris Hughton’s Seagulls finally achieve their dream of reaching the top-flight last season, but hasn’t as of yet signed a new contract at the AMEX Stadium, despite his current one due to expire at the end of June.
And, as a result, Rowett should get in there first and attempt to persuade Sidwell to move to the iPro Stadium, so that he can potentially have the same sort of influence at Derby as he did at Brighton.
Sidwell was used sparingly by Hughton in the 2015/16 campaign as Brighton didn’t manage to earn promotion, losing in the play-offs to Sheffield Wednesday, yet he like the rest of the side regrouped to achieve second place in the Championship last term.
And it’s that sort of resilience and know-how which wouldn’t go amiss in a Derby side that have, since losing their Premier League status in 2008, twice finished in the top six, and on a few other occasions not managed to reach the play-offs altogether despite strong early season showings.
Derby have repeatedly put themselves into position to return to the Premier League, yet haven’t been able to get the job done, for whatever reason. Having Sidwell in their ranks may help them get over that obstacle.
The experienced midfielder has twice achieved promotion from the Championship in his career, doing so with Brighton and indeed as part of that record-breaking 106-point Reading team back in 2006, and having him in your squad would be invaluable, an asset, ahead of the final stages of the season.
And it’s not just his impact off the pitch and in the changing room that would be important either, as Sidwell produced the goods on the pitch for Brighton this term to suggest that he still has the quality to affect things at this level.
Whether Brighton offer him a contract for their Premier League quest remains to be seen, but the 34-year-old is still a quality professional to have in and around a Championship squad looking to earn promotion.
Thus, Rowett must target the midfielder this summer.