After an ultimately disappointing season last time out; one in which they sat in the automatic promotion places for the majority of the season, yet ended up dropping out of the play-off positions on the final day, Derby County are gearing up for a third successive tilt at the Championship promotion race.
Having already replaced Steve McClaren with former Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clement; handing him his first opportunity as a senior manager in the process, the Rams have moved onto the playing staff, and have followed up turning Darren Bent’s successful loan spell into a permanent contract by returning to Villa Park for further striking reinforcement.
Andreas Weimann has followed the path trodden by his Aston Villa teammate to the iPro, signing a four-year deal with the Rams for an undisclosed fee.
Having also announced a deal for Northern Ireland defender Chris Baird, signing as a free agent, this summer seems to mark somewhat of a departure from last season, in which Derby’s approach involved strategic use of Premier League loans in key positions.
This time around, the club appear to be pursuing a policy of bringing in proven Premier League quality on long-term contracts to create a core of players with the quality required to elevate Derby County to the highest division.
Experience and talent
Alongside the collective hundreds of top flight appearances that Baird and Bent bring, Andreas Weimann has featured 113 times for Villa in the Premier League, with his most prolific season in 12/13 seeing him net 12 goals from the wing, including seven in the league. He also brings with him experience of what it takes to play in the Championship gleaned from two consecutive loan spells at Watford earlier in his career.
At 23-years-old, Weimann brings a considerable amount of top-level experience, whilst still being able to claim that youth is very much on his side, with plenty of time to mature and improve as a player. In this sense, he represents far less of a gamble for his new club, and this could be his great strength as a signing.
New coach Paul Clement is a starry appointment, thanks to the considerable success he enjoyed in his spell as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant manager, first at PSG and then in the Spanish capital, but it’s worth remembering that he is totally unproven as a senior manager; a fact that Derby fans may well have found preying on their minds in the darkest reaches of the night.
Promotion a possibility
This influx of senior experience and talent should go some way to alleviating any lack of managerial experience on Clement’s behalf, and bring some of the leadership onto the pitch that is so vital in maintaining a title challenge; something so evidently lacking in the final third of their last campaign.
Weimann represents the best potential mix of attributes this group possess; young, hungry and talented, but with enough experience to have seen most, if not all of it before and to bring that into competing at the very top end of the division throughout a gruelling 46-game season.
A move to the iPro represents an opportunity to reignite a career that had recently begun to stagnate under Tim Sherwood at Villa.
Now, with a history of performing at the top-level, a place in a team that values his contribution and a point to prove, under a manager in much the same position, Weimann could well explode into the weapon that Derby need to force their way to the top of the table and make it third time lucky in achieving their long-held dream of competing in one of the biggest leagues in world football once again.