Phillip Cocu says Curtis Davies deserves huge credit for his performance in Derby County’s 3-2 home victory against Birmingham City on Saturday.
Davies came into the starting line-up for the first time in the league this season and produced a typically dominant display at the heart of the defence.
The 34-year-old defender had been limited to game time in the Carabao Cup this season prior to the game against the Blues, but he stepped up to the plate when called upon.
He missed the majority of last season due to injury, mainly after suffering a serious achilles injury last November at Stoke City, but returned to training in the lead-up to the new campaign under Cocu.
Davies replaced Richard Keogh in the Rams’ first home win of the campaign after the Republic of Ireland international was ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.
Cocu felt Davies’ performance throughout the game, which saw Derby claim all three points thanks to goals from Chris Martin, Martyn Waghorn and Jamie Paterson, deserved a special mention.
He told RamsTV: “If I had to choose a Man of the Match myself, what Curtis did for the team was outstanding.
“I told the players, normally I don’t like to talk too much on individual players, but he has had a difficult period after his injury and adjusting to the style what we like.
“He is a real pure defender, but with great leadership.
“He hasn’t played a lot and to go on and lead the team in this game is not easy.”
He added: “I have been around football for a long time, so I know what he did was special, and he deserves the compliments. It was an outstanding performance and I am really proud of him.”
Cocu had originally confirmed on Thursday that Tom Huddlestone would replace Keogh as Derby’s captain during his expected lengthy lay-off.
After a difficult few days for the club off the field, which the club addressed in a statement earlier in the week, the Dutchman felt it was in the best interests to give the armband to Davies.
He said: “I did it because of what happened after I spoke (on Thursday).
“It is an ongoing process for us and investigation to find out what went on. I think it was better for all to give the captaincy to Curtis.”