JACK STRETTON: DERBY COUNTY'S NEXT GOALSCORING WONDERKID
Over the last few years, Derby County have gained an esteemed sense of recognition for their prodigious youth system.
Max Lowe, Jayden Bogle, Will Hughes and more recently, Lee Buchanan have emerged as the chief embodiments of the Rams’ flourishing academy setup but now, a new star looks to be on the rise.
That player is Jack Stretton.
At nineteen, Stretton is yet to gain notoriety from supporters of other clubs.
Though at Pride Park, the youthful forward is widely tipped for greatness and if he can transition his stellar showings at various youth levels to senior football, it won’t take long for his reputation to ascend outside of the East Midlands.
It serves as little surprise why Stretton has sculpted such a huge ambience of hype and excitement in Derbyshire.
Throughout the Premier League two 2020/21 season, Stretton has showcased his marksmanship and panache with eight strikes in ten appearances, a goals to game ratio eclipsed by few at that level.
Prior to this, the Scottish youth International had already established a degree of prowess within the youth game.
Across two seasons in the U18 Premier League, Stretton displayed phenomenal form, hitting 22 goals in only 26 matches for the young Rams.
Moreover, Derby’s participation in the 2019/20 UEFA Youth League presented Stretton with an opportunity to shine on the continental stage - a chance which he duly grasped.
Although County succumbed to elimination in the round of 16 by RB Salzburg, the fledgling forward still flourished nonetheless, evidenced by four goals and an assist in only six games.
An out-and-out striker with a clinical, composed nature beyond his years, Stretton also has a resilient nature to accompany his wealth of talent.
In his early-teen’s, Stretton had been on the books of Derby’s fierce rivals Nottingham Forest, but after being released, giving up was simply not an option.
“I was gutted, because all I wanted to do was play football” Stretton told the official Derby matchday programme ‘The Ram’ back in 2018.
“I felt like I was done then and that was it.
“As soon as Derby said they wanted to bring me up, I was over the moon”.
You feel that now, given Stretton’s ever-heightening rise, the red side of the East Midlands divide could soon be tasting a collective sense of frustration.
At Derby, Stretton has the perfect environment to reach his prodigious potential.
Having made three Championship appearances this term, the fledgling forward is clearly earning the trust of head coach Wayne Rooney.
And under the tutelage of Rooney, there are few figureheads within the game who could behold a better influence over the young striker.
Before his days in the dugout, Rooney was a bonafide goal scoring icon, surpassing footballing legends to become the record goalscorer at both club and International level.
It is worth noting that Rooney’s expertise extends beyond solely finding the back of the net.
Whilst gracing the field, Rooney displayed great match intelligence and an all-round game few could rival, qualities which he will be looking to translate to Stretton before long.
Although the former Manchester United great is still in the dawn of his managerial adventure, praise has already been attributed to his charisma and man-management capabilities.
I mean, as a young striker still with a vast learning curve in your path, how many more managers would you prefer to work under than Manchester United and England’s leading scorer?
Stretton is a precise fit in Derbyshire for all involved, and his progress over the coming years is most certainly worth monitoring.