Rory Delap says Derby County’s Under 21s ‘thoroughly deserve’ their promotion - stating that the achievement is an indicator of just how far the Academy has progressed.

Following the Rams’ 2-1 defeat to Arsenal a week ago, Delap and his men were forced into a waiting game as the Gunners played out their final two games of the season – knowing a victory would see them leapfrog Derby and claim the Barclays U21 Premier League - Division 2 title.

Game one saw them slip to a 3-1 loss at Swansea City and last night saw Arsenal face West Bromwich Albion, which again they were unable to record the elusive win in, meaning the Rams claimed the title and promotion to Division 1.

Reflecting on the past week, Delap admitted it has been a ‘strange experience’.

He told Rams Player HD: “It has been a bit of a strange experience really with all of us trying to follow Arsenal’s game at home on Twitter.

“In the end it was a great feeling and the messages from all the lads and also the staff was tremendous.

“I had butterflies in my stomach for the last 15 minutes of Arsenal’s game it seemed to go on forever.

“I’ve never been in the position before to have to follow a game when it’s out of hands but whichever way it comes, you have to take it and luckily for us last night it went the right way.”

Arsenal’s defeats ensured Derby won the league by two points and finished as the division’s top goalscorers, having scored 44 goals.

Having watched and coached the squad, Delap, the former Republic of Ireland international, says it is easy to see why the group have achieved promotion.

He added: “Every lad who has played in this squad over the course of the season has deserved promotion. The attitude and application of every single one of them has been superb.

“I watched a lot of their games before I took over from Darren (Wassall) and they did really well. Since I’ve been in it really has been superb.

“It’s not hard to see why they have been so good this season and again I just couldn’t be more pleased for them because they thoroughly deserve it.

“Through injuries to more senior players in the squad and also through the likes of Mason Bennett and Kelle Roos going out on loan, the younger lads who have also made the step up have done so well and done the whole group proud.

“I think Darren and Pat have to take a lot of credit for this season.

“Jason Pearcey, Adam Robinson, Steve Doyle and Justin Walker also have a lot of credit to take as they have really helped me since I took over in February.

“I said last week after the Arsenal game, the success of the squad this season has shown how far as an academy that we have come and I stand by that now.

“We were disappointed not to be crowned champions against Arsenal but that’s taken nothing away from the lads, they have deserved it.”

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