Much was made of his arrival in January but there can be no doubting that Derby County's season received a real shot in the arm as England's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney became a Ram at the turn of the year.
Phillip Cocu's side were 17th, closer to the bottom three than the Play-Offs, when Rooney made his debut on 2 January, but since then County have begun a slow but sure climb up the table. The Rams have lost just four league games in 2020, all of them coming on the road, and go into tomorrow's game in ninth three points off the Play-Offs.
Rooney might be the headline act but The Rams have an incredibly talented young supporting cast. Teenagers Louis Sibley (7), Max Bird (18), Jayden Bogle (33), Jayson Knight (27), and Morgan Whittaker (14) have all been key parts of the Derby side in 2020 with Jahmal Hector-Ingram, Lee Buchanan, and Jordan Brown making debuts this term. All eight played some part on Wednesday night as Cocu bloods his youngsters in the fire of a Championship Play-Off battle.
Phillip Cocu arrived in the East Midlands with a CV to match anyone who has taken charge in the second tier. The cultured midfielder made 773 professional appearances, netting 151 goals, over a 20 year career. He won four Dutch titles as well as two Dutch Cups and two Dutch Super Cups with PSV. At Barcelona he added a La Liga title and scored twice as Holland finished fourth at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
After retiring in 2008, Cocu spent five years as Head Coach back at Eindhoven, ending his time there with a 65 per cent win rate, three Eredivisie titles, a Dutch Cup, and two Dutch Super Cups. He left in the summer of 2018, enduring an unsuccessful four-month spell in Turkey with Fenerbache, before arriving at Derby in July.
Shandon Baptiste missed Tuesday's win over Charlton Athletic but other than that Thomas has no other concerns.
It's a case of one in, one out for The Rams with Tom Lawrence returning from suspension while top scorer Martyn Waghorn serves the second of his three game ban. It could have been worse for Cocu but youngster Louis Sibley saw his midweek red overturned yesterday.
Jack Marriott and Andre Wisdom are both definite absentees while Duane Holmes limped off on Wednesday night with a hamstring issue. Max Lowe and Florian Jozefzoon were both named on the bench for that game against Albion despite carrying issues of their own.
🆚 BBC Radio Derby's Chris Coles gives us the lowdown on The Rams
⚖ Tim Robinson will be the man in charge tomorrow afternoon
LAST TIME OUT
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