BUXTON PROVES HIMSELF AT LAST
IT hasn’t always been easy for Jake Buxton at Pride Park.
Signed from Non-League Burton by former boss Nigel Clough in May 2009, the centreback was initially viewed as an out-of-his-depth teacher’s pet.
And like a manager’s son who plays for the first team, he often shouldered more than his fair share of criticism and blame.
With each passing season he faced a battle for his place. First Shaun Barker and then Jason Shackell arrived for the kind of transfer fees that guarantee a berth in the starting XI.
Yet Buxton, pictured below, saw them all off. And now, five years on, he is the first name on the team sheet and newly-crowned fans’ player of the year.
“I think the fans saw that I’d come from Burton with Nigel and made their own judgements about that,” says the 29-year-old. “Now the ex-England manager is picking me every week and maybe they’ve realised ‘He can’t be that bad’.
“Me, I’m the same player I was when I started playing at 18. I’ve maybe got an older head on my shoulders. I maybe don’t dive in for as many balls as I used to.
“I was very eager to impress when I first came to the club and that possibly worked against me. I also had a spell out of the side. There were times when I could have moved on.
“But I stuck about, bided my time and got the opportunity from Shaun being injured. I grasped it and I think I’ve done alright.”
And while Buxton is grateful for the chance handed him by Steve McClaren, he says Clough’s role in Derby’s rise merits a mention.
“Steve will be the first to acknowledge that the foundations were here,” says Buxton. “Let’s not underestimate the amount of work Nigel put in to get this club together, and the riff-raff he had to get through to put us where we are now. “The addition of Premier League players on loan has helped. Andre Wisdom has come on loan and been as good as anyone. George Thorne has been excellent. Patrick Bamford has scored goals at crucial times. “It’s been a long time coming and the fans have seen some bad times – losing to Crawley and Rotherham in the Cup. Scunthorpe too. So to have the progression this season is reward for them.”