According to The Chronicle Live, Derby County are in danger of losing out to Sunderland in the race to sign out-of-contract Coventry City centre-back Jordan Willis, with reports claiming that the Black Cats are set to beat the Rams to the signature of the free-agent.
Coventry City manager Mark Robins confirmed Willis’ decision to depart Ricoh Arena in an interview with the Coventry Telegraph last week, with Derby County touted as a potential destination for the former England youth international.
However, as it seems, Sunderland are in a pole position to acquire his services after narrowly missing on promotion to the Championship following a defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic in the EFL League One Playoff finals.
Jack Ross’ side has apparently won the race for Willis but the move is yet is to confirmed, meaning that there is still a ray of hope for Derby County to pull off an audacious hijack.
Jordan Willis made a total of 38 appearances this past season and captained Coventry City to an impressive 8th-place finish in League One, with his consistently impressive performances earning him plaudits from fans and pundits alike.
A youth graduate of Coventry City, the 24-year-old has been at the Ricoh Arena ever since his childhood and has made a total of 208 appearances for the Sky Blues in all competitions till date.
However, he is apparently looking for an opportunity to test his credentials at a higher level and, at 24, the time might just be right for the talented defender to move on from his boyhood club and make a name for himself in the Championship.
Willis has a bagful of League One experience under his belt and a move to the second-tier, preferably with a promotion-chasing club, would help him to carve out an identity for himself in the years to come.
Meanwhile, Derby County are still very much in the process of settling down under new manager Phillip Cocu following the departure of Frank Lampard to Chelsea. The Rams did incredibly well under Lampard to make it all the way through to the playoff final last season, only to see their hopes come crashing down with a defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.
However, Cocu has come through the door with a big reputation and the fans at Pride Park will be hoping that their team can go one step further and secure a much-awaited return to the Premier League for the first time since 2007-08.
Derby are yet to make any significant acquisitions in the transfer window so far they currently find themselves under pressure to deal with the departure of loanees Harry Wilson, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, all of whom played a key role in the Championship last season.
Indeed, new arrivals could set the tone for another shot at promotion next term and it is easy to see that bringing in Jordan Willis on a free transfer would be a massive coup for the Rams. The 24-year-old has proven his worth in the third-tier over the past four or five seasons and his availability on a free transfer certainly makes him a risk-free signing for Derby County.
As well as attacking reinforcements to cope with the departure of Wilson and Mount, the Rams also need to focus on strengthening their centre-back department following the return of Tomori to Chelsea and the release of Alex Pearce.
Derby currently have Richard Keogh and Curtis Davies as the only recognised centre-backs in their ranks and they shouldn’t forget that both the players are on the other side of 30.
While that might not be a big concern for any team in the Championship, it is worth mentioning here that Davies spent large quarters of the previous campaign on the sidelines due to a long-term injury. Hence, it won’t be the wisest thing for Derby to embark on the upcoming season with such limited options at the back and Cocu is probably smart enough to know that.
Well, it is a no-brainer that Derby need to freshen up things at the back with some young blood and, while Jordan Willis isn’t a household name in the Championship, his availability on a free transfer certainly makes him worth a punt for the Rams.
He is yet to complete a move to Sunderland and there might still be just enough time left for Derby to snap him up from under their noses. As for Willis, a move to Pride Park would definitely be in the best interest of his career, given Derby’s Championship status and their Premier League ambitions.
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That said, the Rams should make an eleventh-hour attempt to hijack Sunderland’s move for the former Coventry City man.
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