Could Gary Rowett be forced into action as Cardiff City step up interest in long-term Derby County target?

Derby County manager Gary Rowett

Cardiff City are said to be preparing the first move for Hearts' Callum Paterson, who had been on Steve McClaren's wanted list at Derby County.

Heart of Midlothian's Callum Paterson celebrates scoring their first goalHearts' Callum Paterson celebrates

Cardiff City are ready to 'step up' their interest in Hearts' Callum Paterson and offer him a pre-contract deal according to the Scottish Sun.

But with the contracts of both Cyrus Christie and Chris Baird also up with summer, could Derby County find themselves forced into action?

Derby have long been listed as a potential destination for the Scotland right-back, dating back to the beginning of Steve McClaren's second Pride Park reign.

And had Paterson not suffered a serious knee injury ahead of the January transfer window, there's a strong chance he'd have been a Rams player already.

Derby weren't the only ones said to be keen, though, with Birmingham City, then managed by a certain Gary Rowett, also credited with an interest. 

Derby County manager Gary RowettNew Derby County manager Gary Rowett

And providing he's willing to go until the autumn without him, Rowett could finally get his hands on Paterson this summer free of charge.

Of course, the 22-year-old could always decide to go elsewhere, although a combination of Derby's stature, facilities and Premier League aspirations is sure to appeal ahead of most Championship options.

Let the battle commence?

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