It’s been a tough start to the season for Derby County and things look set to get even more difficult as Phillip Cocu announced today that Rams captain Wayne Rooney is set to miss at least the next three games while he self-isolates.
The absence of England and Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer is not exactly a step in the right direction for a side whose toothlessness has been a real worry so far this term.
Only Wycombe, who are yet to earn a point this season, have scored fewer goals in the Championship this term but rather than seeing it as insult to injury, Cocu should be viewing Rooney’s time out as an opportunity to give a talented young player the chance to impress.
Jahmal Hector-Ingram has been used twice as a substitute so far this term, adding 36 more senior minutes to the first six of his career that he earned last season, but by involving him from the start over the next week the Rams boss will give him the best chance to succeed at this level.
The 21-year-old joined from West Ham United last summer and showed just how dangerous a striker he is for the U23s in his debut season with the club – scoring 22 goals in 28 games before it was cut short.
His dynamism, pace and quality in front of goal could be just what the Rams need to help kick-start their season and Rooney’s absence should be used as the opportunity to give him a chance to prove himself.
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Cocu has indicated that Martyn Waghorn is not yet ready to return to the starting XI and that it may be too early for free agent signing Colin Kazim-Richards as well, meaning the stage is surely set for Hector-Ingram’s chance to come tomorrow evening.
Derby travel to face Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night and the John Smith’s Stadium should be the location of Hector-Ingram’s first career start.
Cocu’s faith in the Rams’ youth prospects was repaid time and again last season, by giving another bright talent a chance to shine tomorrow evening he could turn a frustrating situation into a positive one and help to turn his side’s fortunes around.