Football can be very short-term. The focus, and talk, at times can appear to always be on the next game and nothing else.
How many times have you heard it said that the next game is the most important one? Quite often would be a fair answer and rightly so too, given football is mainly about results.
What is evident, and especially at Derby County, is that long-term planning is just as important.
Phillip Cocu has mastered the balance of the here and now, as well as looking to the future, since his appointment in July 2019.
A key indicator that the Rams’ focus is on what they believe will be a bright future came on Thursday afternoon as two of their most promising youngsters penned new long-term contracts.
Max Bird and Louie Sibley enjoyed positive breakthrough campaigns in 2019/20 as they stepped up from the Academy to be key first-team players. And they both have a thirst and desire to ensure they don’t rest on their laurels.
The pair are now committed to Derby until, at least, the summer of 2024 and have the qualities and characteristics to enjoy successful careers in the game.
Alongside the duo in the first-team squad are number of other promising players with their best years ahead of them, including fellow Academy graduates Jason Knight, Morgan Whittaker and Lee Buchanan.
In the last 12 months, the quintet have all signed extended contracts with the Rams. It’s a two-way street; Derby have faith in the players and the players have faith that the club is the right one for them.
In addition to those coming through the Rams’ youth system, Derby have used the transfer market well to sign players with potential in Polish international pair Krystian Bielik and Kamil Jozwiak in recent transfer windows.
The youthful exuberance on display is well balanced alongside the invaluable experience of the likes of skipper Wayne Rooney and long-serving defender Craig Forsyth, amongst others, which gives Cocu every reason to be confident about the club’s future.
Speaking to RamsTV, Cocu explained: “Football is always difficult to speak too much about long-term because always short-term is very important.
“As we know, you have to perform and deliver. Now and then, you must take a break and see what we are building and try to shape the team that will hopefully be here for the long-term.
“You never know if real big teams come in with big money, but if not, we know that we have got a really good set of youngsters and a set of quality players being part of the club.”
Cocu believes that Bird and Sibley’s new contracts are deserved and a reward for their progress.
Bird’s fine form in midfield saw him named as Derby’s 2019/20 Sammy Crooks Young Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year.
Attacking midfielder Sibley, meanwhile, claimed the Scholar of the Year accolade alongside the Goal of the Year award for his stunning long-range strike against Blackburn Rovers back in March.
Both players made the point upon putting pen-to-paper that they wanted to kick on again, which must have been music to Cocu’s ears.
“It is something they deserve; it is good to tie them down,” Cocu said. “Both the players and the club can be extremely happy
“For us as a club, I think it is important to show the youngsters that they don’t always have to wait until the last moment to talk about their contract. If a young player develops in a positive way, performs well and delivers - then you should upgrade their contract
“They have played well; they are important for the team and we have them on long-term deals. That is the direction within the club.”
He added: “We are very pleased to have them hopefully for a few more years playing for Derby County.”