Derby County are facing a defensive dilemma ahead of their fourth Championship tie of the new season.
It’s no surprise that Derby centre-backs Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton continue to form the core of the Derby defence as the two most experienced defenders at the club. However with the forms displayed in recent games, Derby fans have taken to social media to question the ability of the defenders, with many fingers pointed at long-standing captain Richard Keogh.
The 28-year-old Republic of Ireland international has been the Derby captain since he joined in 2012 however he is now beginning to be questioned by the supporters. It appears as though he has failed to shake off the mistake that allowed Q.P.R striker Bobby Zamora to steal victory from Derby in the playoff final last season, with the defender looking shaky and nervy at the back. Rams fan Matt Jones took to the social media site Twitter to express his frustration at the centre-half, tweeting “Keogh needs dropping, he is a liability and cost us valuable points last year and the premier league! Get whitbread in the team”.
Defender Zak Whitbread joined the Rams on loan from Leicester in 2013 before joining permanently this summer. With the ability to play at either centre-back or left-back, Whitbread is the main contender for Derby fans to replace Keogh. And there’s no doubt as to whether he has the ability either; his commanding defensive frame and footballing ability became clear in Derby’s 2-0 League Cup win over Carlisle United. Whitbread came in to replace Buxton who was suffering from a hip flexor injury and helped the Rams to victory against the League 2 side. Only time will tell as to whether McClaren makes the bold move of replacing his captain, or sticks with his long-term captain and centre-back.
Derby fans are also calling for a return of experienced defensive-midfielder John Eustace. The 34-year-old helped guide the Rams into 3rd place last season before a suspension allowed George Thorne to break into the team. A stunning performance against local rivals Nottingham Forest meant Thorne retained his position until the end of the season, keeping Eustace out of the side. However with Thorne out for most of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Derby had to fill the position. So far, 19-year-old England U21 international Will Hughes and Real Madrid loanee Omar Mascarell have been used by McClaren, however neither appear to have taken well to the position and Eustace remains Derby’s only experienced defensive-midfielder. He is now being called upon by supporters to return to the starting 11. Fan-account @Rams_View tweeted “Perhaps Eustace could be a good shout for Saturday #dcfcfans”.
Derby County will face Fulham on Saturday at the iPro Stadium, and fans are anxious to see what, if any, changes McClaren will make to his side.