Nigel Clough to cast net after Paul Green turns down contract offer
NIGEL Clough says he already has targets in mind to replace Paul Green, after the midfielder turned down the offer of a new contract from Derby County.
And the Rams manager says he will look at the other options he has on the books at Derby before the season ends, after adding youngsters Will Hughes (17) and Mason Bennett (15) to the squad for today's trip to Portsmouth (3pm).
Green will not travel with the Rams and is now set to leave the club in the summer, once his current contract expires.
"It's a little bit disappointing but we understand the situation," said Clough.
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"Unfortunately Paul has turned down our offer but we move on.
"He goes with our best wishes because he has given great service to the club.
"The offer that we made him had to fit into our budget for next season.
"We made him what we felt was a fair offer considering the stage he is at in his career and where we are as well as a club. But it obviously wasn't enough."
Regarding a possible replacement for Green, Clough added: "We obviously have targets in mind, so we will be making a few calls and seeing what we can do.
"We would like one in but if it's not better than what we have within the squad already, then we will solve it from within."
Green joined the Rams on a free transfer from Doncaster Rovers in 2008.
The Republic of Ireland international – who has 10 caps – has been virtually ever-present in the Rams' side since he returned from a serious knee injury in November, filling in at right-back while John Brayford was injured as well as playing on the right side of midfield.
"Paul is a flexible player," added Clough. "But we have seen Tom Naylor's emergence in the last 10 games or so as cover for John Brayford at right-back, so that solves that problem.
"And then in midfield Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick are far and above anybody else as our first-choice pairing in the centre, so it's really at outside right in that four-man midfield that we will need to replace now and we will get straight on to it.
"There are a couple of people within the squad at the moment that could do that.
"We have been waiting to have a look at Conor Doyle in that position but injury has prevented us from doing that. Ben Davies can certainly play out there, as can Jamie Ward.
"But we would like somebody different.
"Paul has given us great service for four seasons after coming in on a free transfer.
"He's 29 now and if he wasn't such a good character and a good lad we would maybe have looked at it in a different light. Maybe it would have been time to move on anyway but he's great to have around the place and we know his work-rate is up there with anybody else in the team and that's why we made him the offer.
"We will bring Will Hughes and Mason Bennett into the squad for the Portsmouth game and maybe have a look at one of those, either coming off the bench or even starting."
Hughes and Bennett both played for the Rams Reserves in the Central League Cup semi-final win against Sunderland Reserves at Pride Park Stadium in midweek.
Hughes was on the scoresheet, beating Sunderland's Scottish international keeper Craig Gordon with a shot from 15 yards in the 3-2 Rams triumph.
"Will scored a magnificent goal against an international goalkeeper for the reserves," Clough added.
"It's a bit like the Jeff Hendrick scenario, until we put them in we're not really going to know what they can do. We have had a look at Mason this season and seen his potential."
Jamie Ward has got the all-clear to join the Rams squad for today's game after suffering a dead leg against Cardiff City, while John Brayford is in the frame again after playing the second half against the Bluebirds.
Brayford replaced Tom Naylor at Cardiff after the latter felt his hamstring tighten. Naylor will not feature in today's game, while Ben Davies is also ruled out because of a hamstring problem.