Derby County Nextgen Update
On Monday night I went to watch the U21’s score a win out of nowhere with two late goals to beat Swansea. This was the second time I’ve seen the 21’s this season following the previous home game against Villa.
On the back of Mel Morris recent statement of his hopes for more home-grown players in the first team, I thought an update on the progress of some of our youngsters would be timely.
Last summer there was concentrated effort to add quality to the U-21 team with a raft of new additions from outside the club. This summer has seen far fewer changes to the group with the majority of the lads remaining from last year. Only Ethan Wassall and Zanzala are serious new additions to the team itself, to date.
Here’s an update on some of the lads :-
- Tom Koblenz – The young German who arrived last summer has transitioned from CDM to centre half. Whether this is based on necessity due to the elevation of Rawson and Hanson or a genuine change of role I’m not sure. As you would imagine he’s technically very good and reads the game well but isn’t the imposing figure that Rawson was. I quite liked him at CDM but it’s hard to see how he will make a push for the first team from centre half.
- Mason Bennett – I get the “he’s younger than you think” but I worry a bit that he is losing his way at Derby. Against Villa he missed a hat full of chances. On Monday he cut a frustrated figure with nothing going right. Then from nowhere a sublime touch and pass to Alfie Santos led to the winning goal. His endeavour can never be doubted and he still has the power and fire. Desperately needs to go out on loan start smashing up league 1 or 2 to progress to the next level.
- Alban Bunjaku – The ex Arsenal & Seville youngster is a ballplayer with an awkward playing style that makes him look worse than he is when things go wrong. However it makes him difficult to handle when it goes right. Unfortunately there is more of the former than the latter and I think he will do very well to move forward with Derby.
- Max Lowe – Max is an absolute class act and, in my view, by far the best bet in the current 21’s to become a first team regular. Strong, athletic, technically sound with a lovely left foot, he now captains the side. Great player.
- Ivan Calero – Ivan is your typical busy Spanish midfielder with great technical ability and a lovely low centre of gravity. His work-rate is great but he probably doesn’t dominate the games enough for me at this level. Again, could probably use a loan to see if he has what it takes to step up.
- Alfie Santos – Although he was sub on Monday, he came on to set up the winning goal. I have to say I really like Alfie and he’s played well every time I’ve seen him. A strong runner and a classic wide man who I would like to see appear on the first team bench from time to time.
- Of the rest, Zanzala is probably one to keep an eye on. A very strong, direct runner who causes panic every time he gets on a run. If he can just get his head up and get a bit more end product he could be a player.
I always enjoy the 21 games and its always good fun trying to recognise the myriad of “football people” in attendance. I would heartily recommend anyone to attend the next home game which is actually at the Ipro stadium in a couple of weeks.
Come on you young Rams!