It has been a bittersweet season in so many different ways for Derby County and Malcolm Ebiowei’s emergence in recent weeks falls in line with that.
The supporter base and the manager have not been more in sync with each other for a long time, neither have so many players made the step up from the academy to the first team in one campaign and yet the dark cloud over the club means that that could all only be a short term achievement.
Malcolm Ebiowei produced a man of the match performance in the Rams’ 1-1 draw with Coventry City on Saturday as the 18-year-old continues to look the part since making his senior debut in early February.
Wayne Rooney expressed his excitement around Ebiowei as a prospect when he spoke to The Athletic.
He said: “He has got an enormous amount of ability.
“He’s brave; he’s not afraid to take players on, get tackled, and make mistakes.
“I thought he was excellent all game.
“He was the best player on the pitch.
“It is one of the best performances I have seen from a young player consistently for 90 minutes in a long time, and he deserves that because he’s worked so hard.
“His attitude is incredible, and he’s an exciting young player.
“I know it means a lot to him.”
The Rams dropped to rock bottom in the Championship after Peterborough United won at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, making Rooney’s job even harder to keep the squad believing that the great escape can still be achieved.
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Derby have picked up just four points from seven games since their 1-0 win over Posh made survival look a realistic possibility in mid February.
Ebiowei does appear to be an outstanding prospect, and another one that the club’s youth setup should take a lot of pride from, however the likelihood that the club are unable to keep him or recoup a substantial transfer fee for his services in the summer, takes a bit of the gloss off of his excellent performance on Saturday.
Rooney’s reputation is going through the roof with a very attractive string to his bow being his ability to integrate younger players into the first team, it will be interesting to see if some of the club’s youthful talents follow the former England captain in the summer.