Darren Wassall was delighted to see Derby County midfielder Will Hughes step up his comeback by playing 45 minutes in Shaun Barker’s Testimonial game on Thursday.
Hughes, 20, sustained an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury in Derby’s 0-0 draw at Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of the 2015/16 season.
After undergoing surgery and several months of treatment, the Academy graduate resumed full training last month.
Hughes came through 45 minutes of Barker’s Testimonial match, played at the iPro Stadium, unscathed in what was his first match situation since August.
Derby’s Head Coach says the England Under 21 international’s return to fitness is a ‘real boost’ as the Rams enter the latter stages of the season.
Wassall hinted last week that Derby will look to get Hughes more minutes at Under 21 level to increase his match sharpness after a lengthy spell out of action.
He told Rams Player HD: “Will has looked good in training and he’s been doing that for several weeks now.
“It was great to see him back on the pitch on Thursday and a real positive for us to have him in a game situation.
“Will has been involved in everything in the last few weeks and it’s fantastic to have him back in and amongst it.
“We were all really excited to see him come through the Shaun Barker Testimonial and it’s a real boost for everybody.
“He is a talented midfield player so it’s very pleasing to think we’re going to have him back.”
He added: “If he can add something in the final stages of the season, even if it’s coming off the bench, that will be a real positive.
“The players, staff and the supporters are looking forward to seeing him back.”
Almost 10,000 fans were in attendance at Barker’s Testimonial to see a current Derby County XI and a Shaun Barker XI go head-to-head.
Barker’s side, which contained a host of popular former Derby players, were 10-9 winners on what was a fun-filled evening.
Wassall described the evening as ‘a great night for Shaun Barker’ and he was pleased to see his players buy into the spirit of the event.
He said: “It was Shaun’s night – he has been a great servant to Derby County Football Club.
“After the terrible injury he suffered four years ago I think we saw everyone come together and show how much he means to the club.
“I thought the first-team players really entered into the spirit of the occasion and the legends put on a great show.
“We saw the personalities of the players come out - it’s not very often they get to play at the iPro Stadium with no pressure.
“All of them really relished the occasion and the chance to put on a great show for Shaun.
“Everyone in attendance enjoyed a great evening and I am really pleased for Shaun.”
He added: “It was pleasing to see Shaun play for both teams – I thought it was a wonderful moment when he came on for the first-team after 73 minutes, which was the time that he got injured against Forest in 2012.
“It was a great night for football, a great night for Derby County and, most importantly, a great night for Shaun Barker.”
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