Derby County manager Gary Rowett has revealed how he is trying to improve squad togetherness at The Championship club ahead of next season.
A number of departures from Pride Park
The Rams have been on a tough pre-season training camp in Tenerife over the last few days and Rowett has told RamsTV how it has helped improve the togetherness within the group. He said: "The players have worked incredibly hard and we're pleased with that and also the togetherness within the group."
He added: "I think, sometimes, hard work tends to bond that relationship a little bit. We've seen it after some of the physical sessions with the lads, they've been high fiving each other and basically saying 'well done'."
The mentality of the Derby squad is an area which has been questioned by many over the last couple of years which has seen multiple failures in the play-offs. It could be argued that the Rams were one of the biggest underachievers in the league last season as they failed to even make the play-offs after a chaotic campaign.
The significant number of managerial changes in recent times will certainly have not helped the togetherness within the squad. The club had three managers last season alone as both Nigel Pearson and Steve McClaren lost their jobs before Rowett took over. Each of these managers will have had their own ideas and players who they wanted to bring to the club. This results in an imbalanced squad of players, some of whom Rowett will have no intention of using next season.
One of the main factors behind Rowett's success during his time in charge at Birmingham City was the togetherness of the squad. Every player was willing to fight for one another and this is a mentality he will now be looking to install into his Derby squad.
There have already been several high profile departures from Pride Park this season. Will Hughes, Tom Ince, Abdoul Camara and Cryus Christie have all already left the club to take on a new challenge. However, the only one Rowett will arguably have been disappointed to see leave is Hughes, as he looks to trim his squad ahead of next season.
Focus on quality not quantity
The main reason that Rowett will be pleased to get some of these players out of the door this summer will be so he can bring in some of his own players. Due to the size of Derby's squad, he needed to make sure he offloaded players he felt were not part of his plans before bringing any news faces in.
Now that four players have left the club, including some high earners, he can start to look at bringing more new faces in. One player who the club have recently been linked with is Leicester City midfielder Tom Lawrence.
The 23-year-old had a superb season last time out on loan at Ipswich Town where he scored 11 goals, majority of which were spectacular. Reports have suggested that Rowett is looking to bring Lawrence in as a replacement for Ince who recently departed for Huddersfield Town in the Premier League.
However, Lawrence is not the only player that Rowett hopes to add to his Derby squad before the season starts. He is also hoping to strike a deal with Brentford for Jota, as they plan a £6 million bid. The Spainiard scored 12 goals in 21 games for the Bees last season and is said to be in high demand this summer.
There is no doubt that securing a deal for Jota will be far more difficult as the forward is also said to be on the radar of a significant number of top flight clubs. However, Rowett does have money to spend after the sales of Ince and Hughes in particular and may fancy his chances of securing Jota's signature.