Phillip Cocu says Tom Lawrence is a key player in his Derby County side - and not just for his attacking qualities.
The 26-year-old, who has scored four goals in his latest six games, has played an important role in Derby’s rise up the Sky Bet Championship table in recent months.
Wales international forward Lawrence has made 34 appearances in all competitions for Cocu’s side this season and scored nine times.
Those nine strikes, including two in Derby’s 3-1 away win at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, are already his best-ever return in front of goal for the Rams since his arrival form Leicester City in August 2017.
His opener at Hillsborough came with a slice of luck as his long-range strike found the net via a deflection, but his second saw him display real composure to slot home to double Derby’s lead.
Cocu is pleased with Lawrence’s current form and speaking to RamsTV, he said: “Tom has found a perfect combination by being important for the team between the lines with his dribbles, with his positioning and also in the 18-yard box.
“There have been some games or some periods during the season where he has struggled with his finishing, but he is finding the net at this moment.
“He puts himself in good positions, the team puts him in good positions too, and he is scoring great goals. I am glad to see it.”
While Lawrence’s attacking abilities understandably grab the headlines, Cocu believes his desire to contribute defensively is also important for the team.
The former Manchester United Academy product has played more minutes than any other player in the Championship for Derby this season.
Cocu says Lawrence is a key player for what he brings to the team both on and off the ball and how he puts the team before himself.
He explained: “For me, he is an example of a player who can give the team the extras with his quality, dribbling, assists, goals.
“He is also an example of a player who always puts the team first. As a winger he does a really important job defensively, takes responsibility and helps the full-backs and midfielders.
“He is always available to receive the ball and never hides. If we struggle in a game or it’s difficult, he always wants to participate and is always available to receive the ball. That is why he is a very important player for our team.”
He added: “Especially as a winger or a creative player, some games you may struggle because of the opponent or the form you have, but still you can be important for the team if you do the job what the team needs.
“By doing that, maybe somebody else can be the difference or score the goal. I think he is an example in that aspect. For me, Tom is a key player for us.”