Derby County U23 boss Darren Wassall has praised the progress of the club's academy.
He was speaking after the Rams achieved their highest finish in the Premier League 2 – Division 1 in the 2018/19 season.
The season also saw the young Rams progress to the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup – the furthest they have ever reached in the competition.
“It’s proof of the progress we’re making that, after three years, we didn’t have to go to the final day to stay in the league,” Wassall told the club's official website.
“We gained promotion in 2015/16 and since then we’ve worked so hard and come a long way as a group.
“We’ve had some high-pressure moments to avoid relegation in recent years, so it has been satisfying to compete at the top end of the table this year. We knew it would be a tough ask to stay there and especially with the young group we’ve got.
"To perform at this high level, not only for the Under-23s and Under-18s, right through the Academy shows we have some great players at this club.”
The season also saw Academy players making big steps up, with Jayden Bogle at the forefront after impressing in pre-season to then break into the first-team and make 50 appearances for Frank Lampard’s side.
“The Under-18s’ success raises the profile, of course, but we know our main trophies are getting players into the first-team or having a career in the league elsewhere,” Wassall said.
“Hopefully, by performing at this high level, the players will have a real opportunity to enjoy a positive playing career.
“It’s easy in a way to get an opportunity, but the biggest challenge for all the players is to kick on and improve again.”
He added: “We want the players to perform at the highest level, regardless of which team they’re in, because ultimately the only person it effects is themselves.
“The players are in control of their own destiny and I think the coaches have handled it really well. It is difficult flowing between three and four teams and making sure each player is in the right mindset.