Five issues facing Paul Warne ahead of his first transfer window as Derby County boss


Paul Warne is approaching his first transfer window in charge of Derby County and has five things to focus on in order to fuel a promotion push.

Sign a full-back, or two…

The Rams have had to make do with makeshift full backs so far this season, due to a number of reasons. Injuries to Brighton loanee Haydon Roberts, club captain Curtis Davies, and summer signing James Chester left Paul Warne with limited options in his back line.

Louie Sibley and Korey Smith have slotted in at left and right-back respectively, but both are central midfielders by trade. However, both have performed at a much higher than first expected, helping contribute to four clean sheets in the last six games.

Derby currently only have two recognised full backs in their squad – Haydon Roberts and 20-year-old Kwaku Oduroh, who has only made 3 senior appearances for the Rams since joining as a free agent from Manchester City.

Strength in depth is essential in a 46-game season and having some first-choice full backs will definitely relieve some selection headaches, but also strengthen the midfield options for what needs to be a relentless second half of the season.

Must consider his current loanees

Haydon Roberts, Will Osula, Lewis Dobbin, and Joseph Anang all arrived in the summer from Premier League clubs, and their impacts have been varied.

Danish frontman Osula has chipped in with 5 goals in all competitions this season, including braces against Accrington Stanley and Torquay United. However, the Sheffield United loanee has struggled to cement a first team spot due to the fine form of experienced strikers James Collins and David McGoldrick.

Roberts and Dobbin have been hit-and-miss since arriving. Both have played in various positions whilst struggling to nail down permanent spots in the starting XI. Full back Roberts, despite his aerial presence, is currently out of favour due to recent performances of Sibley, whereas Dobbin’s moments of magic are often cancelled out by a lack of final product in front of goal.

West Ham goalkeeper Anang is yet to make his Derby County debut after breaking his arm in training in September.  When speaking about his plans for the upcoming transfer window, manager Warne said that he only wants players at the club who are going to play a part. This may hint at a termination of Anang’s deal, as it would free up a loan spot for Warne to strengthen his squad in other areas.

These were signings made by former boss Liam Rosenior, and Warne is likely to want to put his own stamp on this squad, but if he is to venture into the loan market in January, he will need to offload some of his current loanees first. 

Keeping hold of his Irish stars

Eiran Cashin and Jason Knight are arguably the players in Derby’s squad with the highest market value. The Rams did well to keep a hold of the pair in the summer, despite the vast turnover in the squad due to administration and relegation from the Championship.

Both players aren’t out of contract until 2024, meaning that they would receive fees for each of them if they were to depart in January. But if Derby are to return to the Championship at the first time of asking, it would be thought that both players have a key part to play.

Cashin has started all but one league game this campaign and has created a formidable partnership with Craig Forsyth at the heart of defence, while Knight’s versatility and work rate make him a fan-favourite at Pride Park. Knight hasn’t started a game since mid-October due to injury but came off the bench and played a vital part in the Rams’ 4-0 win over Forest Green Rovers, and teammate David McGoldrick said post-match that he is so good that “he shouldn’t be in this league.”

The pair attracted Premier League and Championship interest in the summer, but fine form and starting spots may persuade them to stay in the East Midlands and fight for promotion.

The Krystian Bielik dilemma

The Polish midfielder joined Birmingham City on a season-long loan in July, after being told by international manager Czesław Michniewicz that he must be playing at a higher standard than League One if he were to be selected by his nation for the World Cup.

Bielik has played 15 times for the Blues and has been a crucial part of John Eustace’s side rising to 8th in the second tier. The 24-year-old has been strongly linked with a permanent move to St. Andrews, nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped the Rams head coach from keeping in touch with the midfielder – with the two reportedly exchanging text messages “often”.

There are a lot of options for the two clubs. Derby do have a recall clause in Bielik’s contract, meaning that he could return to Pride Park to hand a much-needed boost in the race for promotion. On the other hand, selling the ex-Arsenal man could be an option. The downside to this alternative is that the League One club are still operating under an EFL approved business plan, meaning that any fee that is received for the transfer cannot be spent on signing new players.

Regardless of the decision made around Bielik, Warne has reiterated that both the Derby and the player will be the deciding factors. Whether that means the Polish International will return to Derby County, is yet to be seen, but whichever club ends up with the midfielder has a real talent on their hands, and as long as he stays fit, he will be invaluable to any team he plays in.

Using the free agent market wisely

Since exiting administration in July, the Rams have not been permitted to pay loan or transfer fees for players and must also operate under a player wage limit.

This saw 14 loan players and free agents arrive under Liam Rosenior in the summer. Paul Warne is well-renowned for working with a small budget to bring players in from his time at Rotherham United, and it’s something he will have to continue to do in January.

“I think we’ve got one lined up” Warne claimed ahead of the Rams’ win over Forest Green on Saturday and stated after the game that he is set to speak to a few players later this week over proposed moves.

Middlesbrough’s Darnell Fisher and Portsmouth captain Clark Robertson are two players that have been linked with transfers to Pride Park, but Pompey boss Danny Cowley shut down the rumours about his defender.

It was proposed by Birmingham City that Sam Cosgrove could be headed to Derby as part of a swap deal for Krystian Bielik, however the striker appeared three times for the Blues before heading out on loan to Plymouth Argyle, meaning he would not be eligible to play for a third club this season – as per FIFA rules.

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