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Holmes embracing Derby County opportunity, hopes it leads to USMNT chance

Duane Holmes enjoyed a MOTM performance last weekend in his first league start for Derby County. The American-born attacking midfielder is now hoping it leads to more minutes this season in a promotional race and a shot at the U.S. national team.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 07, 2018
7:00 AM
THE PAST FEW months have been a whirlwind for Duane Holmes. The American attacking midfielder began the season with Scunthorpe United in League One but had a bit of Deadline Day drama when Derby County came swooping in for a transfer. Negotiations went right up to the wire and it wasn’t until two minutes before the transfer window closed when a deal was reached.

At the time Holmes knew that moving to a Derby County team expected to be in contention for promotion to the Premier League was going to be a major step up in terms of competition for playing time, but it’s a challenge he embraced.

After joining Derby nearly a month into the season, Holmes has spent the last two months mostly playing off the bench. Last Saturday, however, he earned the start against Birmingham City in place of Chelsea loanee Mason Mount.

Holmes delivered with a very impressive performance in a 3-1 win at home. He was named Man of the Match and when he was subbed out of the game in stoppage time, he was given a standing ovation from Derby Supporters at Pride Park.

“I had to be patient to get minutes here because obviously there is a lot of competition for places,” Holmes told ASN from Derby. “I've just been working hard and waiting for my chance. The manager said he was happy with my performances and I took confidence from that but it's about putting it together to get another chance.”

Looking back on the game, Holmes knew he had big shoes to fill for Mount, 19, who has been playing very well this season. He doesn’t put much stock into the Man of the Match and simply adding: “it's not about personal, but it's about the team.”

This past week, Holmes celebrated his 24th birthday and is back at work to try to continue to build his case for more playing time in a very rigorous Championship schedule which features 46 league games. Even with the talent on Derby’s team, squad rotation is typically heavy among successful teams in the Championship.

Derby has goals of competing for promotion and the win over Birmingham City sent the club into fifth place but just two points out of the top spot.

“Obviously every team wants to be pushing for promotion but with the squad that we have here, I think we don't at least make the playoffs we'll be a bit disappointed,” Holmes said. “It's good to be up there. We just need to be consistent and if we're consistent, then I'll think we'll be at the right end of the table.”

This is not the first time in the Championship for Holmes. He grew up playing at the academy for Huddersfield – which he joined at the U-9 levels. It was there where he worked his way up to the first team and made his Championship debut as a teenager.

He joined League One’s Scunthorpe United in 2016 and was named the club’s player of the season for 2017/18 when it lost its bid for promotion to the Championship in the playoffs.

Holmes had options during the transfer window but wanted to join Derby to play under new manager and English national team legend Frank Lampard who wanted to bring Holmes in as a No. 10 (he had previously played both the No. 10 and wing positions). When compared with his first stint in the Championship, the 5’6” Holmes believed he is stronger physically for the difficult league.

“There were a few offers and different clubs but when you get the chance to work with one of the Premier League and England's history, I think you have to take it,” Holmes said. “It was a big part of me coming here and I'm really happy I did because the coaching you're getting is second to none.

“When I first signed, he told me where he sees me playing and that is in that No. 10 role, being at the top of the pitch, and being in the box all the time,” he added. “You can't learn from anyone else about being in the box than Frank.”

Lampard has also been full of praise recently for Holmes and singled him out for his performance in the win over Birmingham City.

“Duane Holmes came in for Mason Mount and deserves huge credit because to fill his boots with the way Mason is playing is tough on one hand but to play the way he did in the second half, I thought he was crucial to the win,” Lampard said.

“He is desperate to play,” Lampard continued. “He has been training really well over the last couple of weeks. He has showed up all the time and he is here for the future of the club. He’s a young player and in the second half we can see what he can do. He has an injection of pace, he can move away from people in midfield which opens up the space. I’m delighted with Duane. He has had to be patient but in the big picture here, he signed in the summer under the radar but I think he is going to be a big player for us.”

In addition to competing for promotion to the Premier League, Holmes is hopeful that if he can play regularly for one of the top teams in the Championship, he can earn a call-up to the United States national team.

Born in Columbus, Georgia, Holmes lived briefly in Alaska before returning to live in England with his mother. Even with the heavy English accent, he has always identified himself as American and still comes back to Georgia regularly to visit family.

He is well aware of how the U.S. team has completely changed over the past year since the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and is impressed with the talent on the current team. In 2019, the U.S. team will have a new coach that will likely move forward with many of the young players introduced into the team in recent months.

Now he’s aiming to build his case for the U.S. team at Derby.

“I've always said that I want to represent America,” Holmes explained. “I feel that if I can keep putting in consistent performances for Derby, then I might just get that chance. Obviously that's what I want.

“After they didn't qualify for the World Cup, I saw they completely changed the team and went younger,” he added. “Which is good. Obviously they've taken a lot of players from Europe. I think there is a lot of talent in Europe among Americans and that is the good way about doing it.”

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