Press article:

Boro and Southampton buy well - 04/02/2003

Boro and Southampton buy well
One of three good players to leave Pride Park

There was a special moment for Izale McLeod this week when he signed his first professional contract. We are delighted for Izale and it is a good move for the future of Derby County. He has done really well since coming into the first team against Ipswich Town earlier this season. His may have hit something of a sticky patch in recent weeks, as all young players tend to do, but he has the ability to come through it. I also believe the goals will start arriving for him as well. He had scored two before todayís game against Rotherham United and Iím sure that there are many more to come.

Hopefully, this is the start of a long and successful career with the club. The promise is certainly there. Signing your first pro contract is a big moment. I remember doing that with Maidstone United back in 1987. I could have earned more money by working and playing non-League for Barry Fry at Barnet but I wanted to be a professional player and so signed for Keith Peacock at Maidstone. We managed to get into the play-offs in the first season I was there. I worked at a chartered accountants called Arthur Andersons before I became a professional footballer. I canít have been cut out for that because I was always skiving off to train or play matches. I used to scoot off on my moped. But then I was lucky enough to get my break with Maidstone and it only seems like yesterday. I have told Izale to relish every moment because it can all happen so quickly. Iím sure he will. He enjoys his football and is keen to learn. He has taken everything in his stride and is already behaving like a professional. He goes about his work in the right manner. At 18, he has got plenty to look forward to.

It's au revoir to three great young lads and it's a shame to lose Chris Riggott and Malcolm Christie to Middlesbrough, and Danny Higginbotham to Southampton. But the movement of players out of the club at the moment is very much to do with finance. All footballers want to play at the highest level possible. Chris, Mally, and Danny are no different and they have joined strong Premier League clubs in Middlesbrough and Southampton.

They are good, young English players and Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren knows all about them from his days as a coach here at Derby. Chris was a big Derby fan as a youngster and ended up playing for the club. Iím sure it was hard for him to leave. Mally seemed to suffer at times with all the speculation about a possible move but he is a very honest lad who worked tremendously hard and always gave his best.

I enjoyed playing in the same team as them. They are both talented players who are looking to improve. We will miss them. Iím sure everybody connected with Derby County wishes them well.

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