Derby County youngster Timi Max Elsnik says he is ready to fight for a spot on the first-team by grabbing his opportunity to impress this pre-season.
The 20-year-old central midfielder has been on the fringes of the senior squad since his debut in the EFL Cup during the 2016/17 season and typifies the academy’s mission of talent rising through the ranks.
Elsnik returned to Derby after a season-long loan at Swindon Town where he quickly became a fan favourite with the Sky Bet League Two side’s fans.
After racking up consistent senior minutes in 22 league appearances for the Robins and scoring three goals, Elsnik believes he ready to fight for his chance to put his stamp on the Rams’ first-team.
“I think last season on loan was a big learning curve for me,” the former Under-19 Slovenia international told RamsTV. “I am happy I got the opportunity and I think I am better-prepared for Derby’s first-team now.
“It’s a different stage, you have a crowd, managers, media and you have to play for the result.
“For a young player coming out of the Under-23s it’s sometimes hard to understand that. It’s a fight, you are going to have people in front of you and you want their spot – you want that healthy competition.
“I learned that last season, now I can’t wait to get started here.”
His campaign to break into the first-team has already began after he was called up for the pre-season trip to Tenerife with Frank Lampard’s squad.
It was a big boost for the former Scholar of the Year who was grateful for the experience and is eager for more.
He was joined by fellow Rams youngsters 17-year-old Jayden Bogle and 19-year-old Luke Thomas who will also look to be part of Lampard’s plans moving forward.
“It was very important because it shows that they can count on you, they think you are part of the squad and they have plans for you,” he said.
“It was my first trip with the first-team and it was a tough one, but enjoyable. The coaching staff do a really good job making the hard work enjoyable with the ball.
“Through the season you appreciate the work you have done in the off-season because it makes it a bit easier.”
As with every player, whether they are a scholar or first-team veteran, a revamped coaching staff brings new eyes to impress and a new fight for positions.
Elsnik admits making the staff take notice is at the forefront of his mind and is excited to relish in the opportunity.
Lampard is someone Elsnik grew up admiring and learning from to develop his trade in the heart of midfield. He is now excited to be able to learn and work with him first-hand.
“The first impression is the most important one and you need to grab the chance when you get it.
“You have to have it in your mind to impress every year, especially with a new gaffer coming in. It’s a big stage, a big opportunity and I am ready for it.
“You know you can always get good advice from Lampard because he has done it and he seems like a very open coach. On the training pitch he is always open, talking to us so it was very enjoyable in that first week with him.
“I think it is going to be a very exciting season for everyone.”