Phillip Cocu was keen to heap praise on Derby County’s Craig Forsyth after he made an impressive return to action in the 1-0 home win over Preston North End on Saturday afternoon.

Forsyth had been out of action for more than a year with a serious knee injury sustained last November.

Unfortunately, it was his third significant knee injury since November 2015 but the defender has never been one to shirk away form a challenge.

After getting several months of training and Under-23 matches under his belt to regain his sharpness, Forsyth stepped back into the first-team fold to ease a defensive crisis for the Rams.

With Matt Clarke and Scott Malone sidelined due to injury, Forsyth made his first competitive appearance in 379 days against North End.

Playing at centre-back, a position he has played on a handful of occasions during his time with Derby, the 30-year-old produced a solid performance and also completed the full 90 minutes.

Cocu was delighted for the Scotland international defender, who he views as a centre-back in his squad, as he played a key role in Derby’s fifth successive home win.

“What a game he played,” Cocu told RamsTV when questioned about Forsyth’s display.

“He can be very pleased with his performance, as we are too. After a year out, that was a great display.

“I am extremely happy for him. He has played more in his career to date as a left full-back, but I spoke to him over the course of the season and I see him more as a centre-back.

“That is because of the way he plays, his passing game and his coaching also.”

Cocu says a large number of Forsyth’s steps on the road to recovery had the emphasis placed on the player himself.

The Derby boss admitted he felt it was key for the 2013 signing from Watford to feel comfortable throughout every step of his rehabilitation process.

With his game time built up over recent months, Cocu spoke to Forsyth earlier this week about the possibility of making his long-awaited comeback.

He said: “We made a plan for him from the start of the season and we put a lot of responsibility on his side when he felt good to start training with the team, when he wanted to start playing games and when he wanted to play 90 minutes.

“I think he played five full 90 minute games with the Under-23s over the last few months, so we gave him build up games before today.

“With the injury to Matt Clarke at Forest recently, I spoke with Craig and asked him how we felt.

“He told me: ‘if you need me, I’m ready’. That is what I wanted to hear.”

Forsyth has 182 appearances for Derby since arriving from Watford in March 2013.

He initially joined on loan, before penning a permanent agreement in the lead-up to the 2013/14 campaign.