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Derby County exercise options on duo

28 May 2014

Derby County have confirmed the club have exercised the one-year options on the contracts of Jamie Ward and John Eustace.

Ward made 35 starts and the 28-year-old Northern Ireland international forward scored seven goals as the Rams narrowly missed out on promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Eustace started 31 games this season and was a regular in the holding role in midfield until he was suspended. George Thorne, on-loan from West Brom, stepped in and kept his place to leave the 34-year-old among the substitutes.

"They will be staying with us," said first-team coach Paul Simpson. " Those two had options in their contracts and the manager has made it quite clear he would like them around.

"Eusty played a great part for us, he really did. He is coming to the stage of his career where he probably doesn't expect to play 46 games but, like every footballer, he wants to.

"He will be important to us next season. He is a top professional to have around the place. His knowledge and experience will be very important in what is a young changing room."

Meanwhile, Derby are in talks with central defender Zak Whitbread and left-back Lee Naylor - who both finished the season with the Rams.

Both players are now free agents. Whitbread was on loan at the iPro from Leicester, who have recently released the 30-year-old, while Naylor signed a short-term contract to provide cover for Craig Forsyth.

Simpson added: "Discussions are ongoing between the manager and both Zak and Lee.

"Zak was unfortunate when he got injured in the Watford game and the two centre-halves (Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton) have been magnificent.

"When Keogh was injured, we had to bring in Michael Keane on loan because Zak was not fit.

"Lee and Zak played a massive part in the run-in with their experience."

Whitbread arrived at the beginning of October and made three consecutive starts before he suffered an injury. His only other appearance was in the final Sky Bet Championship game against Leeds at Elland Road, when Buxton was rested.

Naylor, 34, was used four times as a substitute by Derby head coach Steve McClaren.

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