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It’ll be all change over the next few weeks at Derby County. This summer presents a first opportunity for manager Gary Rowett to build his own team – the autonomy to do that was promised by owner Mel Morris recently. Morris himself has work to do, finding a replacement for Chief Exec Sam Rush and perhaps even fighting him in court may take his attention away from playing matters.
Those matters are in safe hands though with their former defender Rowett. Given his previous exploits on the field, he could prioritise the centre-back position. Richard Keogh has been admirable this season and will surely remain at the club, but he wouldn’t get seniority over Alex Pearce who has been truly outstanding.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Derby recruit a new defender to play next to Pearce and the obvious target would be Newcastle United’s Scotland international Grant Hanley.
It looks like Toon manager Rafa Benitez is willing to allow the player to leave, and his experience and ability at Championship level will be hard to beat. Finding a player of this quality is usually down to the buying club and they have to make high offers to prize the player away. However, in this case, he is being offered to Championship sides by Newcastle.
Benitez needs to make room in his squad for proven Premier League talent and so the fee required to land Hanley, although not cheap, would not be an insurmountable one. Derby definitely have the cash to buy Hanley and as long as they keep hold of their prized attacking assets such as Tom Ince, they can afford to spend the majority of their money in bolstering the defence.
Hanley is only 25 and can still get better as a centre-back, and has already chalked up 161 appearances at this level for Blackburn and Newcastle, as well as gaining vital experience playing for Scotland. Players of this quality aren’t made available so easily every summer and so clubs should immediately take notice.
Derby would do well to swoop in and sign the big man now before other clubs enter the race to sign this quality young player, who’d be available in the market at such an affordable price.