With the transfer window now shut it’s time to look at how well Derby County have done working against their financial and league restrictions to try and sign enough high-quality players for the season.
Loanees or free agents were the way forward for the Rams this summer with Wayne Rooney trying to build a 23-man squad that can compete in what is known as the toughest league in the world.
The embargo given to them by the EFL meant they could only sign out of contract players in order to build a 23-man squad of 'professional standing'.
Derby finished 21st last season, narrowly avoiding relegation by one point. However, this season has started better for the Rams with one win, three draws and one loss to their name, sitting 15th with six points.
Rooney developing as a manager
Rooney officially started managing Derby in January of 2021 and couldn't have been appointed at a worse time. Off the pitch, the club was in financial disarray with the EFL breathing down their necks ready to punish them for FFP violations.
Mel Morris failed to attract any new owners because of the state of the club and it left them with a back half of the season where they were fighting for Championship club status both on and off the pitch. Rooney with help from Liam Rosenier and co did keep the Derbyshire club in England's second-tier, which was crucial for the club.
However, more issues were to follow this summer with restrictions on the way they sign players implemented by the EFL.
However, Rooney did manage to bring in new players with Phil Jagielka and Sam Baldock signing until January with Ravel Morrison, Richard Stearman and Ryan Allsop on one-year deals. Rooney has started his first full season as Derby manager well. The players look to have bought into his methods and style, which is key and it's showed in the results.
As Rooney continues to develop as a boss, his sides philosophy, way of playing, and results should ultimately develop and improve at the same time.
At the time, to fans, this didn’t seem like the most sensible option. Derby at the point of initial interest had two keepers and no recognised centre half in their ranks but Allsop has proven useful so far, providing competition for Kelle Roos.
The 29-year-old was a free agent after leaving Adams Park earlier in the summer. Before joining the Rams he made 270 career appearances including Derby's fellow Championship teams such as AFC Bournemouth, Coventry City, and Sky Bet League One sides Lincoln City and Wycombe Wanderers. In those games, he has kept 79 clean sheets across his career.
The experienced striker was bought in to help the younger players in the attacking third, using his depth of knowledge to help contribute to Derby's goals. Along with Colin Kazim-Richards, Baldock is the only other attacker over the age of 30 and is likely to be rotated throughout the season.
So far this campaign he has only made two appearances, both in the league and has scored once. Baldock has made 411 appearances, scoring 115 goals and assisting 40 in all competitions. 203 of those appearances have come in the Championship with 44 goals and 22 assists.
This was one of the most eye-catching arrivals at Pride Park. Morrison was another starlet out of the Manchester United academy that looked destined for big things, however, his off the pitch struggles with an attitude almost killed his career before it properly began. No doubt Rooney's United links helped this deal get done and what a deal it is if things go to plan.
An attacking midfielder with bundles of creative talent was something needed for Derby's midfielder. Louie Sibley has been good but could be utilised in other areas now a dedicated number 10 is at the club.
Morrison has been a bit of a journeyman so far in his career making appearances for 12 different sides including United, West Ham United, ADO Den Haag, Östersunds FK, SS Lazio, Atlas Guadalajara and Birmingham City.
At 39 years of age, this signing was undoubtedly one to make up numbers and add experience in the short-term to a light backline. This was confirmed by his contract which only has him with Derby until halfway through the season - January 2022.
After being released by Sheffield United, Jagielka is now one of Rooney's leaders in the dressing room. His wealth of experience will again help younger players as well as strengthen the side in the near future. Jagielka has made over 671 career appearances and was a key figure for Everton in the late naughties and across the 10's.
Thoughts of the players
Curtis Davies, another experienced member of the side, recently spoke to RamsTV: "I think over the course of last season we were adapting with what we had to stay in the division.
"I think everyone can see what we are trying to do. The players have reacted really well to it. We have had some really good performances this season by playing the way we wanted to play and I think people recognise what us as coaches are doing to try and get more out of these players.
“It is risky at times, but you have to take risks to get rewards. It’s exciting and fun to be part of but we are still working on it and can still get better at it. We can still be more clinical but it’s a work in progress and it’s going well.”
However, despite all this, the club is still under a transfer embargo and Rooney has expressed his frustrations. The reasons why they are under an embargo were listed by the Derby Telegraph:
Regulation 16.2 - Failure to provide audited annual accounts
Regulation 16.3 - Annual Accounts not filed with Companies House
Regulation 17 - Default in payments to HMRC
Profit and Sustainability Rules - non-submission of audited accounts
Regulation 51.2.3 - Default in paying transfer fee instalments
Rooney also spoke to the telegraph and said: "That's what I have to think. I have to assume and prepare these players for the season. I have no indications that is going to be any different. That is where we are at and if that is the case I'll keep working with these players and trying to improve them and make them better players.
"Of course I'll be trying to put pressure on every day to try and get more players in because I do think if we get one or two injuries it is a big, big issue and something we would really struggle to cope with.
"I also, on the other hand, have to try to protect these young players because some of the young players are with us because they have to be, not because they are at that stage of their careers yet.
"So I need to make sure I don't throw them in at the deep end and almost end their careers before they have even started."