Gary Rowett feels Mason Bennett is in a ‘good place’ – and he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from him during pre-season.
Bennett, who turned 21 at the weekend, has been with Derby’s first-team squad from the start of pre-season training last month.
The Academy graduate remains Rams’ youngest-ever debutant after making his breakthrough at 15 in 2011, and he marked his birthday on Saturday with a goal in the 2-0 friendly win at Macclesfield Town.
The forward, who has had loan spells at Chesterfield, Bradford City and Burton Albion in recent years, has also had to endure a frustrating time due to injuries which have hampered his progress.
He ended last season strongly and played an instrumental role in helping Derby’s Under-23s retain their status in Premier League 2 – Division 1 with some fine displays and crucial goals.
Rowett says the new campaign is a chance to start afresh with Bennett and he’s keen to give him the chance to show what he can do.
The Derby boss told RamsTV: “Mason’s in a good place and we can only judge him from when we’ve come in.
“He is, of course, a player I have seen a lot of over the years.
“To think he’s only just 21 is incredible and you have to be patient with those (young) players. If we judged him against the rest of the players at his age, we’d say he is a fantastic prospect.
“It’s like we want to start again with him really. We’ve given him a chance to be around the first-team group and want to see what he can do.”
He added: “We know he has all the attributes. He has amazing physicality, power, pace and great balance.
“He just needs to find those goals and assists to go with that. Mentality wise right now, he’s been good and I am really pleased with him.”
Bennett has made 36 first-team appearances for Derby, of which four have been starts, and scored twice.