Derby prepared to fight off Premier League transfer 'predators'

Championship leaders Derby County are expecting January interest to be shown in their star turns, but are ready to fight off the Premier League 'predators'.

From their perch at the top of the Championship table, Derby County will be able to see the Premier League Promised Land.

The gates remain firmly bolted at present, though, with there still plenty of work to be done if the Rams are to be invited back to English football’s top table.

Just five points separate Derby from a standing outside of the second tier play-off places, so momentum must be maintained in a notoriously competitive division.

January is also expected to deliver an entirely different kind of challenge, with the high-flying exploits of Steve McClaren’s men bringing them to the attention of those further up the footballing food chain.

Agreeing fresh terms with a number of key men - such as Will Hughes, Craig Bryson, Richard Keogh and Chris Martin – should help in the fight to keep the top-flight vultures at bay.

Those in charge of comings and goings at the iPro Stadium are, however, expecting their resolve to be tested when the transfer window swings open.

Head of football operations Chris Evans said in the Derby Telegraph: “In football, there is a lot going on behind the scenes

“But I feel that if you treat players well and if they feel valued, as ours do – because we’ve given them the contracts they deserve – if they’re happy and come to work with smiles on their faces and if they feel Steve McClaren is the man who is going to take us to where we need to be, why on earth would anybody want to leave Derby County?

“We hope to take them to the ultimate place where all players want to be and we’re working hard to achieve that goal.

“I also feel that every day, you have to conduct a risk assessment. I have to assume that at all times, a ‘predator’ is looking to take X, Y or Z and you have to be ready for all scenarios.

“My role is to provide football players to this club and I believe we’re in a very strong position to provide Steve with options that can help to take us forward.”

Derby are under no pressure to sell, with financial struggles now a thing of the past as stability and ambition has been restored to the ranks.

They will, however, be aware that every player has a price and that contract extensions will work in their favour as asking prices are pushed up during a period in which top talent comes at a premium.

The likes of Hughes, as an England U21 international, and Martin, as an in-form frontman, will inevitably draw admiring glances from afar, but as long as Derby ensure that they are made to feel valued and that a push for promotion is maintained, they should be able to enter February strengthened rather than weakened.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch