Phillip Cocu has provided an update on the state of play regarding his Derby County squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Sky Bet Championship encounter at Huddersfield Town (7:45pm kick-off).
Derby will be without skipper Wayne Rooney for the game against the Terriers, but several other players are closing in on making their returns from injury.
Rooney, 34, must self-isolate until 29th October after unknowingly encountering an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
The Derby skipper has been tested for COVID-19 himself, with the results returning as negative, but he must self-isolate in line with the guidelines for the pandemic.
While Derby must make do without Rooney until later this month the likes of Martyn Waghorn, Jordon Ibe, Krystian Bielik and new signing Colin Kazim-Richards could soon return to the fold.
“Unfortunately, Wayne has to self-isolate for 14 days,” Cocu told RamsTV.
“The next game he can be available for is AFC Bournemouth later this month. We didn’t expect it, but it has a big impact on the club and the team, so we are not too happy about it (the situation Rooney was placed in).
“Our players have stuck to the protocols in a very good way, so they have to keep doing it. This is an example to this person who came by (to Rooney’s house) that it has a big impact on himself and his family but also on the club.
“Everyone has to step up to try and deal with his loss now. There is focus on the players who are available; we have a few senior players here and they will have to do more.
“We only can do it if we are all together. We have shown in the past that we can do it and it is something we believe in. Luckily, a few players will come back from injuries and that will give us more options soon.”
Cocu added: “We made an individual programme for Wayne, to make sure he keeps his fitness levels up and make sure he is available the moment he gets back in.
“It’s just a shame because he was getting really fit, giving us what we expect from him as an excellent player and captain. It’s a setback, of course.”
Striker Waghorn, who netted 12 goals last season, has not featured for Derby this term owing to a calf injury sustained in pre-season.
He recently resumed full training and is making positive progress as he builds up his sharpness.
Turkish international frontman Kazim-Richards joined Derby as a free agent last week and is quickly building up his fitness with the squad.
When asked about the duo, Cocu said: “Maybe one or two will be back for Tuesday, but I think for Friday when we play Nottingham Forest there will definitely be more players available.
“It’s always a tricky line and balance you have to keep because you don’t want players to come back and get injured for a long time.
“That is something we definitely don’t want but we need everybody at this stage, that’s obvious.
“We need to keep the right balance and make the decision as to who can play a part in the game, sometimes maybe as a substitute that could benefit the team as well.
“Looking forward to Friday and the week after, more players will return to the squad.”
Welsh forward Tom Lawrence made his first appearance of the season in last Friday’s 1-0 home defeat to Watford.
The wideman sustained a dislocated shoulder at the end of the 2019/20 season in July but, after undergoing surgery, he is now back at full fitness.
Lawrence appeared off the bench against Watford, impressing in his 30 minutes on the pitch, and is now in line to start against Huddersfield, if required.
Cocu said: “I think he showed what he can give us. Tom was out for a few months, but his fitness levels are excellent because he trained by himself and with the medical team.
“He joined the group about a week ago but what he put on the pitch was what we need - his quality.
“Tom can drift inside or outside, he can get in good positions, has a good shot, dribbles well and is a constant threat. It’s a positive development for the squad to have him back in the team.”
Cocu also added in his pre-match media duties ahead of the Huddersfield game that Polish winger Kamil Jozwiak is available for selection.
The wideman was not risked in the Watford fixture because he was in international action only 48 hours beforehand against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Attacking midfielder Louie Sibley remains out of action due to injury, but Jordon Ibe and Krystian Bielik are due to play for Derby’s Under-23s on Friday in their Premier League 2 – Division 1 fixture against Southampton to get match minutes under their belts.
Winger Ibe, who joined Derby from AFC Bournemouth last month, has not played first-team football for over a year while Poland international midfielder Bielik has been out of action since January with a long-term knee injury.