The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

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.”

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