The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

THREE mil­lion quid is a se­ri­ous out­lay for any Cham­pi­onship player, let alone a cen­tre-half the wrong side of 30.

Yet Derby’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to prise Jason Shack­ell from Burn­ley’s grasp makes per­fect sense in light of last year’s cat­a­strophic melt­down.

Top in March, the Rams crunched into re­verse and even­tu­ally con­trived to miss the play-offs al­to­gether – a slide that con­demned poor Steve McClaren to New­cas­tle.

It was a spec­tac­u­lar balls up, but not al­to­gether un­ex­pected to Pride Park reg­u­lars. Why? Be­cause Derby were the Cham­pi­onship’s an­swer to Amir Khan – flu­ent and dan­ger­ous on the at­tack but a spaghetti-legged mess the mo­ment any­one landed a de­cent shot.

Many times I saw their young side buf­feted and bul­lied, their soft cen­tre evis­cer­ated and their frag­ile con­fi­dence shat­tered. They weren’t a bad team – far from it – but they weren’t a tough one.

Yes, the in­jury to Chris Martin wreaked havoc, but the loss of Jake Bux­ton – a tech­ni­cally lim­ited but hard-as-nails cen­tre-half – in March should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Which is where Shack­ell comes in. The 32-year-old has seen it all at this level, in­clud­ing Derby with whom he spent a sea­son in 201112. Tough, rugged and ice cool un­der pres­sure, Shack­ell has cap­tained ev­ery side he has rep­re­sented since the age of 24 and that totemic lead­er­ship was in­te­gral to Burn­ley’s pro­mo­tion in 2014.

He is the gran­ite jaw Derby needed dur­ing last year’s dis­in­te­gra­tion. Had he ar­rived last sum­mer, they might now be £120m richer. Sud­denly, that £3m doesn’t look so crazy.

GRAN­ITE: Jason Shack­ell

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