Liam Rosenior believes Derby County’s players have returned to training with ‘a real hunger and energy’ as the Sky Bet Championship prepares to return to action later this month.
The EFL announced a week ago that it had agreed to a provisional restart date of the weekend of 20th June 2020 for matches, behind-closed-doors, in the Championship.
Games haven’t been played for three months in England owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has severely impacted on the United Kingdom since the beginning of March.
The return date is subject to the strict proviso that all safety requirements and UK Government guidance is met; and that clubs receive clearance from their local authorities to stage matches at their home grounds.
Derby’s squad returned to training, under the EFL’s Return to Training protocols, at the end of May and their preparations have been able to gradually increase under the EFL’s strict guidelines.
Rosenior, who holds the position of Specialist First Team Coach on manager Phillip Cocu’s coaching staff, says the Rams’ players have shown a strong desire in training to return to match action.
The 35-year-old has also praised Derby’s squad for their commitment to remain in excellent physical shape during the period where they had to train at home, under UK Government guidelines.
Speaking to RamsTV in the latest of the weekly interviews for the ‘Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected.’ initiative, Rosenior said: “It has been great, absolutely great, to see the players and the manager and all his staff once again at the training ground.
“We have also worked really closely with the Club Doctor (Amit Pannu) and Steve Haines (Head of Fitness). Amit has worked so hard with the protocols he has had to implement; it has made the organisation run so smoothly. He deserves great credit for making sure everyone has remained safe.
“We’ve had to work to a different style in terms of how we’ve delivered our training sessions, but the players have come back in great shape.
“We’ve been able to step up what we’ve been able to do and with the different way of working, I know this is where you need to be creative as a coach and really earn your money.”
He added: “There’s a real hunger and energy to what the players are doing; they are really enthusiastic to get back to playing football and they’ve missed it.
“The squad deserve a lot of credit. They have been outstanding with the work they’ve done away from the training ground and they will see the benefits of that now back in training.”
When matches do resume, they will have a very different feel as supporters will be unable to attend stadiums in person.
Rosenior has admitted that Derby’s coaching staff have closely monitored the situation in Germany, where clubs have been playing behind-closed-doors in recent weeks after returning to action last month.
“We’ve spoken as a coaching staff about the football in Germany returning, in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 as well, and have also been studying it and looking at trends,” he said.
“A huge part of the game now will be communication on the pitch, as it will be easier to communicate. Sadly, we will not have the supporters at the games, but we have to use every advantage that we can.
“We are working every day with the players not only about that (playing behind-closed-doors) but how we want to play as well.”
Cocu’s side were in a good run of form prior to the unexpected break in the season in March.
They had recorded back-to-back league victories against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers, scoring six goals in the process, to climb into the top half of the table.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Derby’s results and performances showed a greater level of consistency from the end of December onwards.
Rosenior says a key test for everyone in the Rams’ camp is to try and replicate the form displayed in the early months of 2020 when they return to action.
He said: “We had a good period of form before the COVID-19 outbreak and in last performance, the 3-0 win over Blackburn, we played some outstanding football.
“It wasn’t just the results that we were pleased with, but the manner of our performances too, which indicated we were getting to a place where we wanted to be.”
He added: “We are continually reminding the players about how we want to play and our identity as a team.
“If we can take what we produced before the break in the season into the last nine games, it will give us an opportunity to finish the season in a really strong way.”
Derby have nine games remaining in the 2019/20 campaign – four at home and five away – and they sit in 12th spot in the Championship standings with 51 points from 37 matches.