It is just over two months since Louie Sibley netted the first goal of his professional career for Derby County - and the youngster is keen to kick on once again when the time comes for football to return.
The 18-year-old midfielder opened the scoring with a thunderbolt of a left-foot strike for the Rams against Blackburn Rovers in early March to mark his first-ever league start in style.
Derby ran out 3-0 winners against Blackburn Rovers at Pride Park Stadium in the Sky Bet Championship, with Sibley’s superb effort followed up by a goal in either half from striker Chris Martin.
The Academy graduate has made eight first-team appearances so far this season and an impressive showing against Manchester United in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round a few days earlier saw manager Phillip Cocu reward him with his full league bow against Blackburn.
However, the 2019/20 season was halted a few days later owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the football authorities collectively agreed at the time that the professional game in England will not resume until it is safe to do so.
Following advice from the UK Government several weeks ago, Derby’s players have had to keep themselves in shape at home and follow fitness programmes to ensure they are raring to go for when the time comes that football can be played again.
Sibley admits his brief taste for first-team football has left him craving more - and he is prepared to put in the hard yards to further establish himself in Cocu’s plans in the future.
Despite conceding he is missing the game he loves greatly; the teenager knows there are bigger concerns right across the world relating to people’s health and wellbeing.
Speaking to RamsTV over Zoom as part of Derby’s ‘Stay Fit. Stay Safe. Stay Connected.’ initiative, Sibley said: “We all want to get back to football and I’ve been missing it like mad, but what’s going on right now with the Coronavirus is more important.
“I’m always having a kickabout with my brother and I have also kept doing my runs to keep in shape and make sure I’m in a good place when we do come back to training and eventually matches.
“It is hard doing the runs at home, but it’s important to do them and follow the programmes that we’ve been given by the club because when we come back we want to be one of the fittest teams.”
He added: “We’re always in touch with the manager, staff and fellow players and catching up when we can.
“I’m close with a few of the lads so we’ve been catching up, as we’re quite close, but this is not a time to chill out and relax – we have to make sure we’re ready to go and as fit as we can be.”
Sibley made his first-team debut earlier in the season and, like fellow youngsters Jason Knight and Max Bird in recent months, he has grasped the opportunity to impress at senior level.
The midfielder was a key part of the Derby Under-18 side that was crowned as Under-18 Premier League National champions last season and he also impressed in the UEFA Youth League earlier in the current campaign.
The break in the season came at a point where Sibley was hitting his stride with the first-team, but he was keen to stress that his situation pales into insignificance with the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I saw recently that it’s just over two months since the Blackburn game, but it feels like it was only yesterday,” he admitted.
“I was starting to play, got a few starts and I felt like I was starting to make an impact, so you could say it came at the wrong time personally. As I’ve said before though, there’s bigger issues out there than that.
“When we do come back, I want to kick on again and be playing games and performing for Derby County.”
Followers of Sibley on social media will notice he has been an active user whilst football has taken a back seat.
His use of Tik Tok, a recreation of the famous John Barnes rap from New Order’s 1990 smash hit World In Motion and kick-ups from his local park to back home has captured the imagination of supporters.
Sibley, who is a level-headed individual and not someone to take himself too seriously, admits he’s enjoyed keeping people entertained.
“I’ve been trying a bit of everything really, that’s how I am and it was something to pass the time and put some smiles on faces,” he said.
“I did the John Barnes rap and I got a bit of stick for that, but I don’t mind.
“It was about having a laugh and I think the standard of rapping was pretty high from me!
“It took me all day to get the lyrics in my head and I had my mum and dad holding some cards up with the lyrics on if I needed them.
“The kick-ups just came from a conversation with my brother; I’m not going to say if I managed it all the way home or not – I will let people make their own minds up on that one.”