Life after Chris Martin: who will lead the line for Derby now?

Derby County's Chris Martin shoots

Chris Martin has been Derby County's frontman for the last four years, but who will fill the void that his departure has left?

Derby County's Chris Martin shootsChris Martin has moved on loan to Fulham

The 27-year-old's loan move late on Wednesday's transfer deadline day came as something of a shock to many Derby fans, who would never have expected to see a player who has scored 52 goals for the club in 121 appearances leave on loan to a potential promotion rival in Fulham. 

The burly centre forward has been at the centre of most of the good times at the iPro since his arrival in 2013 from Norwich, but equally he has been a prominent figure in the Rams' increasingly frequent failures to secure promotion to the Premier League. 

Coupled with that were several goal droughts and a goal tally that has dwindled season on season. All things considered, perhaps it was time for the Scotland international to move on.

Given his primary deployment as a lone striker under McClaren, Clement and Wassall, goals from other strikers at the club have never really been a prolific occurrence. Midfielders Johnny Russell, Thomas Ince and Craig Bryson have instead been the main source of goals to support Martin - scoring 70 between them in the last three seasons in the Championship.

Tom Ince of Derby County (L) and Aly Cissokho of Aston Villa in actionTom Ince has been a fairly regular source of goals

However, as seems to be the way with the East Midlands outfit, the club's form has stunning purple patches all too often followed by abject dips and the scoring form of their star players is no different.

The midfield cannot provide the firepower to steer Nigel Pearson's team to promotion on its own, and one of the previous understudies to Martin, or a recent acquisition, will have to step up and lead the attack.

Matej Vydra

The most popular and likely choice would be new signing Matej Vydra who joined from Watford last week. The Czech forward has been highly rated ever since he first featured for Watford in 2012, but despite his undoubted ability, has only scored more than 10 goals in a season twice, netting 20 and 16 for the Hornets in 2012-13 and 2014-15 respectively. The 24-year-old scored a paltry three goals in 31 games for Reading last season and his international record isn't much better with five in 17. Perhaps the right strike partner could see him flourish.

Matej Vydra celebrates scoring the first goal for WatfordMatej Vydra scored 36 league goals for Watford

Darren Bent

The next best candidate is probably Darren Bent. At 32-years-old he has experience on his side and 106 Premier League goals suggest that if any of Pearson's strikers know how to find the net, he does. The former Ipswich Town man hasn't found the goalscoring form of his top flight glory days in a Derby shirt though. He has only managed 12 goals in the last two seasons, and is yet to find the net this term. However, many of his appearances have been as a substitute - playing second fiddle to Martin.

Derby County's Darren Bent has an attempt on goalBent tries to open his account for the season against Brighton

James Wilson

A product of the famed Manchester United academy could also be the solution, with the promising and youthful James Wilson recently arriving on loan. Wilson was held in high regard as a hot prospect for the future at Old Trafford, before Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene in February. Despite plenty of goals at youth level, the 20-year-old is yet to make an impact as a professional, only scoring three league goals for his parent club and five on loan at Brighton.

James Wilson celebrates scoring Manchester United's first goalDerby's new loan signing James Wilson celebrates scoring for Manchester United

Although Vydra, Bent and Wilson are the most likely to get the nod from Pearson, honourable mentions should go to the likes of Andreas Weimann, Abdoul Camara and Nick Blackman who have all demonstrated their talent both at previous clubs and fleetingly for the Rams. It is at least to Derby's advantage that they have a wealth of striking options and even if they don't look particularly lethal right now, goals could be right around the corner as Pearson gels his side together.

It is important to remember that it was Pearson who kickstarted Leicester City's spectacular turnaround in form to save them from relegation by getting the most out of his seemingly ordinary players - and we all know what happened next there.

Have something to tell us about this article?

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch