Phillip Cocu believes there’s light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to players returning to the Derby County fold after spells out of action due to injury.
The likes of Krystian Bielik, Tom Lawrence and Martyn Waghorn are back in full training and are edging towards their comebacks.
Polish international midfielder Bielik has been out of action with a long-term knee injury, sustained in January of this year, while attackers Lawrence and Waghorn have not featured this season due to shoulder and calf problems respectively.
While the trio aren’t quite ready for a return to first-team action, they are making big strides in the right direction.
Speaking to RamsTV on Thursday afternoon, Cocu said: “We expect Krystian Bielik, if everything goes as plan, to probably play his first game for the Under-23s next weekend.
“Tom Lawrence is the closest to being involved in the first team again. He is very close. He feels good and has put in a lot of physical work, which is why he does not need a lot of time with the team training.
“Martyn Waghorn is training but he will need time after eight weeks out, but he looks good and it is great to have him back in the training sessions.”
Recent signing Jordon Ibe, who arrived from AFC Bournemouth as a free agent, is building up his sharpness on the training ground.
The winger has not played a competitive game in over a year after falling out of favour with his former club.
Cocu has made it clear that patience is required – but he is happy with his progress.
“Jordon Ibe is looking good and getting more fit,” Cocu said. “He had to reduce the loads a little bit for a few days to work with the medical team, but he is back in training and looking better.
“He needs a little bit more time because pre-season normally prepares players over six weeks.
“We will try to get him into the team as soon as possible but we have to be realistic and we can’t expect miracles from him either. His work ethic is great and it is good to have him. We need a little bit more patience.”
Derby return to Sky Bet Championship action following the October international break with a home fixture against Watford on Friday night.
Cocu admits the Rams’ schedule is less than ideal, given David Marshall (Scotland), Jason Knight (Republic of Ireland) and Kamil Jozwiak (Poland) were in international action on Wednesday.
The Derby boss, however, hopes Louie Sibley could shake off a minor muscle issue to face the Hornets.
He said: “I would be lying if I said I am happy with the schedule. I am happy they played for their national teams and make their debut like Jason Knight did.
“To play on the Friday night - when they play on the Wednesday night - is not ideal.”