As the midpoint of the season draws closer, Derby County's Under-18s and Under-23s have built the foundations to impressive seasons and are in the mix at the top of their respective leagues.
First team manager Frank Lampard has taken note and praised the academy’s performances.
He has rewarded the youngsters with regular call-ups to step up to training with the senior squad.
Darren Wassall’s Under-23s sit second in the Premier League 2 Division 1, just a point behind leaders Everton, who they beat 1-0 earlier this season and three points ahead of Chelsea who they also defeated 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile, Justin Walker’s Under-18s sit fourth in the Premier League – North after just one defeat, which came against leaders Everton, in their last eight league matches.
Speaking to RamsTV, Lampard said: “The youth teams have been playing so well and winning so many games. I’m always trying to get across that myself and my staff, we are a group here.
“Whenever players are playing well and deserve to be with us or we need them, then they are with us. Tyree Wilson has been with us, Morgan Whittaker was with us a bit and Max Bird a lot as well.
“I can go on with names because they are all staking a claim, which is great. When you have regular conversations with the academy coaches and they are mentioning different names then good, get them all in and see how they react to training with the first-team.”
One of those to be thrown into training with the first-team during pre-season was Jayden Bogle, who has gone on to make the right-back position his own.
Lampard hopes some of the other young Rams can follow for not only the development of the individuals, but also the future of the club.
Under-23s captain and 18-year-old midfielder Bird has frequently trained with the senior squad and came off the bench in Derby’s Carabao Cup ties at Oldham Athletic and Hull City in August.
He was also named on the bench against Aston Villa earlier this month, while first-year scholars Louie Sibley and Wilson have also gained valuable experience.
Lampard has emphasised the importance of being thrown into the mix at a young age to see how they react to playing with the older players, and the extra intensity that it brings.
“They need the extra speed that the first-teamers have and the game intelligence,” Lampard added.
“It’s a natural progression and every step brings a promise of them and we are happy to have them.
“It’s the future of the club, we must give the young players a chance when they deserve it and I hope they come through. That’s what we are here for and you’ll never know, Jayden Bogle being a fantastic example, until they train with you how they settle.
“That’s all down to them and how they take things on board. Hopefully we will have more to come through.”
As well as the step-up being essential for the young players, Lampard also believes their addition to the sessions is beneficial to the more experienced, older players too.
He said: “The first-teamers actually react well to having them because they bring in the youth and the energy into the training session, which I think is good.
“Sometimes with the negative of injuries in the first-team, the silver lining in the cloud is that the young boys can come and train with us and it will be good to see.”