Frank Lampard: Derby County must strengthen in defence, says manager

Fikayo Tomori (left) and Richard Keogh
Fikayo Tomori and Richard Keogh have started together in defence in all but three Championship matches this season

Signing a centre-back is "key" to keeping Derby County's promotion push on track, says boss Frank Lampard.

The Rams are sixth in the Championship but a season-ending injury to Curtis Davies, coupled with a smaller transfer budget, have left Lampard concerned about maintaining their challenge.

Richard Keogh has started every league game, while Fikayo Tomori has played in 26 of Derby's 28 Championship matches.

"They've been fantastic, but need help," Lampard told BBC Derby Sport.

"We need to strengthen in the centre-back position. That is clear. It is hugely important. We have two centre-backs who have played a lot of minutes."

Lampard said bringing in additional cover was vital if Derby want to maintain or improve their position.

"We need competition and cover," he added. "It is an obvious area of the team and squad that we need and when you look at fixture list, with the FA Cup included, it is very congested.

"To ask two centre-backs to get through the season is a big ask so that is something we seriously need to look at.

"It is absolutely crucial and that is a conversation I am having with the club so we will see what we can do."

The Rams have signed former England and Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole, and the 38-year-old could be involved in Friday's league match against Preston North End.

Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole left Los Angeles Galaxy in October

"Ashley is getting close, but I am not sure if he will be fully involved," Lampard said. "We are looking for the extra 15-20% of match fitness so the last thing I want to do is put him in too early.

"But we are not the biggest squad defensively so if needs be, he might play some part."

Meanwhile, Lampard has insisted winger Tom Lawrence, who has scored five goals this season, is not for sale despite interest from Premier League side Huddersfield Town.

"There was an enquiry for Tom," Lampard said. "Good players with the attributes like Tom will always get interest but it is of no interest for me so Tom won't be leaving."

Find all the latest football transfers on our dedicated page.

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