The midfielder declared himself pleased following return to match action.

James Bailey says he is enjoying a ‘new lease of life’ at Derby County, after the midfielder made his comeback from injury in the Under-21s’ 2-0 victory over Hull City earlier this week.

The former Crewe Alexandra player suffered a knee ligament injury during a friendly fixture with Middlesbrough in August earlier this year.

However, after resuming light training in recent weeks and coming through 60 minutes of match action on Tuesday, Bailey says he is relishing the prospect of trying to catch the eye of Head Coach Steve McClaren and his coaching staff.

He told Rams Player:“It is always good to get out and play football, whether it is the Under-21s, first-team or even just training.

“The main thing for me was to get through the game, get some match action and hopefully I can continue to progress from there.

“Whenever you get injured things drag on and you get annoyed, you get set-backs and you get disappointed. But you have just got to keep going - the boys are flying at the moment and that has spurred me on because I want to be involved in that.

“If I am honest, I didn’t feel too sharp! [vs. Hull] I felt good for the first 20 minutes, felt ok after 40 minutes then at half-time my legs were a bit sore, but that is understandable as I have been out for three months and I haven’t trained too much.

“This is a huge opportunity for me now, but all I can do is remain as professional as possible; get my head down and work hard and hopefully show the Head Coach what I can do.

“As the Head Coach has said, it is a fresh start for everybody, so it is all up to me basically. If I do get a chance then I have got to take it, but right now the boys are flying. 

“I have always wanted to try and work my way back into the team; I love it here at Derby, the fans are great with me the staff are great with me. My targets are now to keep fit, try and play well, listen to what the Head Coach has to say – work on that, and if I do get my chance I hope to stay in the team.

“It has been like a new lease of life for me, they coach you well, they encourage you even when you make a bad pass, and just in general there is a happy vibe around here."

Bailey’s return has coincided with Jeff Hendrick, Johnny Russell, Mark O’Brien and Adam Legzdins all building up their match fitness following injuries, and the 25-year-old insists that competition for places keeps everybody 'on their toes' at the club.

He added: “It has been about three months now [the injury], some of the lads have been out injured for god knows how long – it was doing my head in, so I was obviously delighted to get out there and get 60 minutes under my belt with no reaction.

“You need to have a real competition for places, because if there isn’t you can let your standards slip. However, with so many people ready to jump in your spot here, I think it keeps you on your toes and is another reason why we are doing so well because there is competition all over the pitch.”

Watch the full the interview with James Bailey on Rams Player.