Derby County manager Wayne Rooney has suggested that young midfielder Louie Watson could now be in contention to feature from the start against Barnsley on Wednesday night.
The Rams will be aiming to get themselves back to winning ways on Wednesday as they travel to face a Barnsley side that have won seven matches in a row in the Championship. Rooney’s side, in contrast, fell to a second successive defeat on Saturday going down 1-0 away against fellow strugglers Coventry City. Midweek represents a chance for them to put things right.
Against Coventry, Watson was brought off the bench by Rooney with 21 minutes remaining and the 19-year-old made a positive impression for the Rams having 22 touches of the ball, winning two duels, and completing one successful dribble (Sofascore). It was the sort of display that suggests a bright future is ahead for the midfielder.
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Speaking to Derbyshire Live following the loss at Coventry, Rooney outlined that he thought Watson was the Rams’ best performer when he came onto the field and also insisted that he is now fully in contention to be selected from the start against Barnsley on Wednesday night.
He said: “Louie Watson was our best player when he came on. I think Louie brought more out of Max Bird. When he came on he was vocal, so I was really pleased with him.
“Yes, absolutely (could start against Barnsley). He has been really good in training over recent weeks and he is certainly in contention to start on Wednesday.”
Given Derby’s recent slump in form you can understand Rooney feeling he needs to now maybe try something different. Both Graeme Shinnie and Max Bird have dropped off in their performance levels over the last few weeks, with the Rams asking a lot of them and also missing the presence of the highly influential Krystian Bielik alongside them in the middle of the park.
Watson would represent a fresh player with nothing really to fear who could just go out and express himself for the Rams over the next few matches. The 19-year-old might be exactly the sort of spark that is needed in the side to get them back on track and ensure they do not get dragged back down the Championship table.
It is a lot to put on a player with such little experience, but Rooney will know how to handle that kind of pressure having burst so successfully onto the scene as a teenager in his playing days. If the Derby boss feels he is ready then that is a major positive for the Rams.