Steve McClaren says work is ongoing to not only improve Derby County’s squad, but to also ensure that the Rams’ ‘integral players’ remain at the iPro Stadium.
Head Coach McClaren and his coaching team are currently preparing to welcome Derby’s squad back for pre-season training on Friday and kick-start preparations for the 2014/15 season.
The Rams came agonisingly close to securing promotion to the Premier League last season, but tasted defeat in the Play-Off Final against Queens Park Rangers.
McClaren is already plotting another promotion challenge and believes that retaining the core group of players that secured a club record points return in 2013/14 is just as important as adding to the squad.
Loanees Patrick Bamford (Chelsea), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool), George Thorne (West Bromwich Albion) and Zak Whitbread (Leicester City) all returned to their parent clubs at the end of the season, and McClaren says the ‘search is on’ to fill the gaps they have left in the squad.
He told Rams Player: “In the days after Wembley myself, our Chief Executive Sam Rush and Head of Football Operations Chris Evans formulated a plan of what we wanted to do from that point onwards.
“Since the Play-Off Final, behind the scenes Sam and Chris have been working tirelessly.
“With the World Cup in full swing at the moment there’s not been, publically, a huge amount to catch up on.
“As well as aiming to fill in the gaps in the squad left by the loan players it has been a priority to keep the core group of players together.
“They are integral to what we want to achieve and it is important to retain their services and get around the agents and begin the process of sorting contracts out.
“As well as keeping the squad together we know we need to improve it as well.
“The search is on to replace those loan players that returned to their clubs with as good, if not better, quality players.”
He added: “One of the key messages after the Play-Off Final was that we wanted to stick together and keep this squad together.
“We want to challenge once again and the Play-Offs will be the target once again for us, and we hope if everyone sticks together that target can be achieved.
“I don’t think that there’s a better place to be other than Derby County at the moment.”
Watch more from Steve McClaren in an exclusive interview on Rams Player.