Face it Derby County fans, the 2016/17 season is most certainly not living up to expectations.
Suspended manager Nigel Pearson even admitted that a relegation fight was on the cards. So could the Rams turn to youth in the hope of revitalising the season? If so, Charles Vernam is surely the main candidate to look towards.
Despite the Rams youngsters tasting Premier League 2 football for the first time following promotion last year, Vernam stands top of the goalscoring charts after six games; scoring seven goals, including a brace against reigning champions Manchester United.
The boyhood Scunthorpe United fan initially dreamt of featuring for the Iron. It looked to be the case; Vernam was the Lincolnshire side’s star player as he emerged through the ranks.
However, after catching the eye of Derby County scouts in the autumn of 2012, then academy manager Darren Wassall signed up the youngster in November 2012. Vernam put pen-to-paper in front of a packed iPro Stadium crowd ahead of the Rams’ Championship fixture against Blackburn Rovers.
From that point, his development has consistently continued. By August 2013, then manager Nigel Clough had taken an interest in the youngster, as he was rewarded with a place in the first-team for their trip to the Pirelli Stadium for the Bass Charity Vase Final.
The confidence he got from being around top class professionals allowed his game to grow. By September 2014, he was ready to feature for the Under-21’s. Despite not getting a full 90 minutes under his belt at this level throughout the entire 2014-15 campaign, he excelled by assisting all three of the Rams goals in a fixture against Aston Villa.
By the following season, he was ready to be playing at such a level, week in week out. Three goals in five assists attracted the interest of Icelandic club IBV (Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja), who snapped up the youngster in May this year on a two-month loan deal.
One goal in Iceland’s top-flight during a highly successful loan spell proved to the first-team that this kid can play. Despite featuring constantly for the Rams in the Premier League 2 this season, he has attracted the eye of the management staff.
But what can Derby fans expect if he features for the first-team?
While he has taken the development league by storm so far this term, he is not just all about goals. His assist record in the lower divisions of development football has proved that he is a team player, who is more than willing to lay it off for a teammate if necessary.
His work rate is immense, while his dribbling is crisp. But he holds one integral trait for a footballer of his age; the willingness to work.
Despite scoring a phenomenal goal against Middlesbrough’s Under-18 side in October 2014, his record at a higher level was originally unsatisfactory. However, since his return from Iceland, he has glistened into a perfect attacking midfielder, of whom contributes goals as well as assists.