Defender Curtis Davies has heaped praise on Derby County’s latest young guns to make their mark on the first-team scene.
Luke Plange and Liam Thompson have both stepped up from Derby’s Under-23s squad, following impressive displays in Premier League 2 - Division 1 in the first half of the 2021/22 campaign, to feature for Wayne Rooney’s squad in recent weeks.
Plange, 19, has scored twice in three successive starts in which the Rams have picked up a trio of successive victories to take his goalscoring exploits onto the senior stage.
A close-range finish on his full debut secured a 1-0 victory at home to Blackpool in early December, while he rounded off a flowing team move to open the scoring in the 2-1 success at Stoke City on Thursday night.
Another player to have stepped up from the Academy is fellow 19-year-old Thompson with the central midfielder producing some impressive displays in the last month.
He has racked up six starts and one substitute showing since making his league debut in mid-November at home to AFC Bournemouth and he has made his mark in the middle of the park.
His composed displays have caught the eye and his has benefitted from training with the first-team throughout the campaign whilst waiting for his opportunity to shine.
Davies, one of the senior members of the squad at the age of 36 and with almost 600 career appearances to his name, has been impressed with the way the duo have adapted to life in the Sky Bet Championship.
“The Stoke game was only Luke Plange’s third start, so credit to him for getting two goals,” Davies told RamsTV.
“He looks like a proper centre forward and I thought he put himself about a bit more than he did in the West Bromwich Albion fixture.
“I thought Kyle Bartley got the better of him, but I think he learned a big lesson that day. He came up against big Danny Batth at Stoke and he didn’t let it happen again.
“He held the ball well and his finish was excellent. As a senior player you fancy him to score, but he’s that away with fairies with being so young and new to it all that it looks like he’s playing in the park!
“As for Luke Thompson. I’m running out of compliments for him. We’ve always known that he’s had that ability.
“When he trains with us, he came up and had that ability but it was about how he would handle that other side of the game and how would he handle a battle like he had today; he has a lot of respect from me.
“How he handles the ball was never in doubt and how he has handled himself up against top players in this league has been top drawer and fair play to him. He went out the team for a couple of games recently, but he’s come back and hit the ground running again.”
After racking up nine points in their last three outings against Blackpool, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City to round off 2021, Derby are back on the road to kick-off 2022.
They will travel south to face Reading on Monday 3rd January (3pm kick-off) in their first Championship game of the new year.
Derby were 1-0 winners over the Royals at Pride Park Stadium back in September, thanks to a goal from defender Craig Forsyth, and Davies says the Rams will be raring to go once again.
“They are a good team,” Davies said.
“I have to say, we’re not sure how they will be affected by COVID-19 and things like that as they’ve had quite a few postponements.
“We will play whatever team is there and hopefully we will get a result, like we did at Pride Park back in September.”