Connect with us

Derby County

I hated trying to pick Derby County’s player of the season but it just had to be him

Published

on

Derby County secured their return to the Championship at the weekend when they beat Carlisle United amid glorious scenes at Pride Park.

 

Following what was their first promotion in 17 years, thousands of fans streamed onto the pitch in the wake of the 2-0 victory that secured runners-up spot for Paul Warne’s side behind title-winning Portsmouth.

 

Celebrations continued throughout Saturday and Sunday in unforgettable scenes as the players toasted a wonderful achievement as the revival of the club under David Clowes continues. Our Derby County writer, Leigh Curtis, has assessed the club’s key performers of the season to name his Rams player of the season. Here is his top five…

 

Fifth: Ebou Adams

 

Had the on-loan Cardiff City midfielder been at Pride Park all season, it is a pretty fair assumption that the majority of fans would agree there would have been two outcomes – one, that Derby would have lifted the title ahead of Portsmouth; and two, that Adams would have been crowned their player of the year.

 

The fact he is on this list having played just 17 games and scored one goal underlines the impact he has made on this team since his arrival in January, and in the history of Derby loan signings it’s hard to think of one that has been more transformative.

 

Everything that Derby had been missing in the centre of midfield, he brought in spades. If there was a tackle to be won, he won it. If there was a shot to be blocked, he blocked it. He set the tone when he threw himself in front of a shot at Charlton away on his debut and then punched the ground in celebration.

 

There was also the strike against Blackpool which won the goal of the season award. But, in truth, there have been so many moments that left Derby fans breaking the cardinal rule, which is to never fall in love with a loan player. Hopefully, a deal can be struck to make his stay permanent in the summer, otherwise there are going to be a lot of broken hearts.

 

Fourth: James Collins

 

It was all rather fitting that James Collins should score on the final day of the season as he secured what was the sixth promotion of his career. It was Collins in a nutshell. After a knockdown from Sonny Bradley, it was one touch and finish.

 

That took his tally to 19 for the season, just one short of the magical figure he had targeted back in August. In fairness, he probably would have reached it had he not picked up a knee injury against Exeter back in February which left us all fearing the worst and Derby without a striker until Dwight Gayle’s arrival.

 

Collins may not be the quickest, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in his endeavour. He often set the tone with how hard he pressed from the front and he is just a born winner.

 

He’s been a brilliant servant to Derby and everybody at Pride Park was so thankful that his knee injury didn’t rule him out for the entire season. Otherwise, that would have robbed him of his Carlisle moment, which given how hard he has worked, and given his contribution to the season, would have been bordering on the criminal.

 

Third place: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

 

To put Mendez-Laing third in the list of top performers this season was a difficult choice to make. In many ways, it was like trying to do a Rubik’s Cube in the dark because there can be no dispute that he has been amazing. He’s scored nine goals and created 16, which are extraordinary figures.

 

And if we could hand out three Player of the Season awards, we would give him one. That is what is so infuriating because you have to pick a winner and that’s what yours truly hated, given there were some very strong candidates.

 

But boy has he been good. You give him the ball and he just wants to drive at defenders. If it doesn’t work, he has the bravery to keep demanding it. After the Cambridge game, in which his goal secured a memorable 1-0 win during a pivotal weekend of the season, Mendez-Laing spoke about his journey and how Derby was now his home and his club.

 

They always say a happy footballer is a dangerous one, which has proven the case here because Mendez-Laing has been too hot to handle for many League One defences. He deservedly claimed a place in the Football League team of the year, and when he is in full flight he is worth the ticket price alone.

 

He’s been a spectacular source of creativity and if he’s had a couple of games that have fallen below his standards, he’s never been out of form for long. He’s been a joy to watch.

 

Runner-up: Eiran Cashin

 

What is there to say that hasn’t already about a centre-back who has simply been magnificent this season? His partnership with Curtis Nelson has been formidable, and ultimately laid the foundation for what has been a record-breaking season.

 

There has been narrative to Cashin’s season too given he could have left on deadline day last summer when Brighton were trying to do a deal with Derby to take him to the Amex.

 

His Premier League dream did not materialise after a day of negotiations, but he never sulked. He just got his head down to become a hugely pivotal figure in a team that showed indomitable spirit throughout the season.

 

And when we flick back through the moments of the season who can forget him being left under a pile of bodies for the winner he scored at Oxford where he also delivered a peach of a cross for Liam Thompson to make it 2-2?

 

Who can forget the pivotal goalline clearance at Lincoln City when the score was goalless? He reads the game magnificently, he is not afraid to put his body on the line and there is something wonderfully old-school about the way he defends.

 

For one of the academy boys who dreamed of putting a promotion on his CV, it is a wonderful story that has been given the ending it deserved. He rightfully won the Young Player of the Season, but the 22-year-old could have easily won the top award too, he’s been that good.

 

Winner: Curtis Nelson

 

Mendez-Laing and Cashin were bonafide contenders for the top prize, but you can’t really look beyond Nelson, who has been a model of consistency throughout the season. He has played every minute of every league game, the only outfield player in League One to do so.

 

He is a fierce competitor, a brilliant professional, somebody who has been a pillar of solidity and one of Warne’s most trusted and reliable lieutenants. In fact, Nelson and Cashin sounds like a great buddy cop movie and the pair of them together have had most attacks in League One on lockdown as they finished with the best defensive record in the division.

 

But Nelson’s influence and consistency did not go unnoticed by his team-mates who bestowed him with the Players’ Player of the Year which is the ultimate accolade when it comes to the end-of-season awards.

 

But he deserves all the adulation that has come his way and the fans quickly recognised just how crucial he has been to their return to the Championship.

 

He’s been a formidable competitor whose mantra has been ‘thou shalt not pass’ and the way he handled Devante Cole in a 3-0 win over Barnsley last season was Nelson at his peak.

 

Having arrived on a free transfer last summer after leaving Blackpool, it was shrewd recruitment for a player who has demonstrated tremendous leadership in the heart of the defence.

 

He’s strong, he’s smart, he’s hardly put a foot wrong and that is why he is Derbyshire Live’s player of the season.

 

 

READ NEXT;

Liverpool may have Cardiff City to thank for Leeds United payday

Club set for transfer meeting with Southampton – Not at all convinced over deal, player still to prove himself

Clubs join forces to fight controversial decision Derby County didn’t know was coming

“A replacement for Adam Idah” – Norwich City hope to beat Ipswich and Middlesbrough to signature

 

 

For More Stories Like This, Check Our Sport Page.

Trending