Tired of transfer news involving Roberto Soldado and Gareth Bale? Here's a story that's likely to slip under the radar as both of the aforementioned topics are flogged to death today- 22 year-old full-back prospect Adam Smith has been sent on a season-long loan to Championship side Derby County FC, where he will slot in as a direct replacement for Premiership-bound right-back John Brayford. Nigel Clough had this to say of the incoming youngster:
"He’s a young player with a lot of potential and we’ve been very impressed with what we’ve seen of him over the last few years.
"Whenever we’ve seen him in the Championship or on international duty he’s stood out as a very solid right back, and someone that likes to get forwards as well.
As with all of our summer loan moves so far, it's hard to know exactly where to pitch my enthusiasm level over this news. After spending the last couple of seasons on loan in the Championship edging closer and closer to AVB's starting XI, it really would have been nice to see a player as promising as Smith graduate up to a Premiership side and start getting some minutes in the top flight under his belt before he hits 23.
Equally, however, when you drill down a little deeper, I feel that there are a few reasons to come away feeling optimistic about this move. First of all, the loss of John Brayford, arguably Derby's best senior player, to Cardiff was an unexpected and problematic development for the side, and it's left a void which Smith can potentially fill for the whole season if he plays up to his potential- experience which should do wonders for his confidence and help him iron out any remaining kinks in his game.
There's also the fact that Nigel Clough is a strongly youth-focused manager with a great record of focusing carefully on the wider development of promising talents and enacting a "if they're good enough, they're old enough" playing-time policy (Derby's ill-fated loan of Thomas Carroll in 2010-11 being an unfortunate outlier). Striker Mason Bennett was given his first team debut under Clough aged just 15; midfielder Will Hughes became a key player last season at 17, while the rest of Derby's starting squads are usually filled out by players aged 21-24. If any Championship manager is going to give Smith the time and encouragement to reach his potential, it's Clough.
Finally, it's important to note that Derby are a side who will be genuinely attempting to build towards promotion over the course of the coming season. Injuries, key player sales, the lack of a consistent striker and a pervasive problem with conceding silly late goals have robbed them of a proper push for better things in recent years (sound familiar?!), but after a few difficult consolidation seasons the ambition to go up is there, and Smith will find himself competing throughout the year ahead in a side hungry to kick on rather than simply secure a further spell in the second division.
In any case, here's hoping that Smith can use this opportunity to propel himself back towards the first team, where he looked set to start settling in around 12 months ago.