10 Academy youngsters have been handed professional contracts by Derby County.

Derby County have handed professional contracts to 10 players from the Rams’ Academy.

Goalkeeper Ross Etheridge, defenders Dylan Hayes, Sam Berry and Josh Lelan, midfielders Rhys Sharpe, Niall Dawkins, Andy Dales, Ayrton Wassall and attacker Adam Wixted have been offered professional terms after the completion of their two-year scholarship programmes.

Defender Jamie Hanson, who is a first-year scholar and has been an unused substitute on a handful of occasions in recent weeks for the first-team, has also been given a professional contract.

The Academy has produced a healthy number of players for the first-team squad in recent seasons, with Will Hughes the latest player to make the step-up this season by becoming a first-team regular, and also gaining international honours for England’s U21s.

The Rams have once again reinforced the message that they are committed to developing young talent, as well as their faith in youth, by offering the contracts to the players who played their part in Derby’s U18s reaching the Quarter-Finals of this season’s FA Youth Cup.

The 10 players who have been awarded deals will continue their progress next season, first and foremost, in Derby’s U21 team.

Manager Nigel Clough said: “The U18s have had a good season, especially after Christmas, and in the FA Youth Cup their performances were incredible.

“These contracts are a fitting reward for the players and the U21 League, which was introduced last summer, encourages us to give the young lads another year or so to continue their development and see how they cope.

“It’ll be a step up for them playing in that league on a regular basis and we’re delighted they’ll all be hanging around.”

Clough added: “Darren Wassall and his team have worked incredibly hard in the Academy over the last few years and they are doing a brilliant job.”

In total Clough has called upon the services of four Academy products this season in Jeff Hendrick, Mark O’Brien, Mason Bennett and Hughes, while Callum Ball and Ross Atkins have gained first-team experience in loan spells at Coventry City and Burton Albion respectively.