Whilst 2020 has been one of frustration and heartache for many, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Derby County Academy graduate Jordan Brown has admitted it has been a year he will never forget for the right reasons.
That is because the youngster realised a dream in July by making his professional debut for Derby at the end of the 2019/20 campaign against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
Brown replaced recently-departed striker Chris Martin in the 84th minute and played out the final minutes as the Rams finished the game with eight Academy graduates on the field.
Prior to that, it had been a momentous season for Brown as he featured in the club’s inaugural season in the UEFA Youth League.
The youngster starred as the Under-19s beat Belarusian side FC Minsk and Icelandic outfit IA Akranes before he got his name on the scoresheet in a historic victory over German giants Borussia Dortmund.
As well as that, he had been a consistent performer in the club’s Under-23s before their season was curtailed in March.
And Brown, who has been given the squad number 46 for the 2020/21 campaign, wants to continue to build on his progressive year going into the new season.
“It’s been a year of something that I’ve never experienced before but it’s definitely, personally, a year I’ll never forget for the right reasons,” he admitted, speaking to RamsTV as part of their Academy Review Show.
“I’m just glad to be back in the swing of things again, playing football day in, day out and build on last season.
“I played in the UEFA Youth League and to make my first team debut was ultimately a dream come true. I was just really proud. It was just brilliant to get on the pitch.
“The best thing was to speak to my parents after the game and to see how proud they were. For me, it’s just a case of getting my head down, going for more appearances and seeing where this season takes me.
“That was just the first appearance so now I want to push on and keep improving for more hopefully in the future.”
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Brown returned with the first-team squad in June and trained with them throughout the summer.
He enjoyed a short two-and-a-half week break before returning to pre-season with his team-mates and featured in the friendly against Peterborough United, which the Rams won 2-1 at St George’s Park.
“I have found it enjoyable,” Brown said, speaking about how he has settled back in. “The players are very welcoming and coming up that helps a lot that you can settle in quickly.
“I’ve had some great advice from the players as well and from the coaches too on how to improve. The main thing for me is focusing day by day, like I did last season, on the training pitch and when I get opportunities to play in games, I just want to do my best.
“That is all I can give and if I get the rewards out of it then brilliant but as long as I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I’ve done my best, then that’s all I can ask for.”
Manager Phillip Cocu has shown during his managerial tenure that he is not afraid to give youngsters an opportunity in the first team if they are good enough.
Max Bird, Louie Sibley, Jason Knight, Morgan Whittaker and Lee Buchanan have all stepped up to play consistently in the first team, and Brown knows he needs to remain focused to earn his chance.
“It’s just a case for me of improving and seeing the improvement,” he commented. “Hopefully if I keep improving myself then opportunities on the pitch will come.
That is the main goal for me, to try and get on the pitch as much as I can. I haven’t got a specific target but it’s just to improve because I’m at that stage in my career where I still have a lot of learning to do.
“Hopefully this season I can see some improvements from my hard work.”