Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County: Why former Manchester United star has had a big influence on the Rams on and off the pitch
Garry Monk’s Sheffield Wednesday will be looking to continue their mini-revival when they welcome Derby County to Hillsborough on Saturday.
Wednesday go into the game on the back of a 3-3 draw at Birmingham City last weekend and a dramatic, last gasp 1-0 victory over Charlton Athletic at S6 on Wednesday night – their first win in front of their own fans since December.
Monk’s side currently occupy 12th place and are eight points behind Preston North End in the final play-off berth.
As for the Rams, well they make the short trip north looking to arrest a poor run of form away from Pride Park which has seen them pick up just 11 points on their travels.
Phillip Cocu’s outfit, which is likely to feature former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney in their starting line up tomorrow, lost again on the road on Tuesday night when they went down 2-1 against Queens Park Rangers.
So which players make Derby tick and how will set up tomorrow? We’ve asked Steve Nicholson, of the Derby Telegraph, for the lowdown on the men from Pride Park.
Who have been the stand-out performers for the Rams?
If player of the year was announced now, for me it would be between Duane Holmes (who is currently out injured) and Martyn Waghorn (who is top scorer with 12 goals).
Young midfielder Max Bird has impressed since the turn of the year while Wayne Rooney has had a big influence on and off the pitch.
Are the fans happy with Phillip Cocu?
You always get some fans who are not happy with a manager, especially when the team is in the lower half of the table and results are disappointing, generally, but I think there is an understanding that this has been a tough season on and off the pitch, and that a season of transition was always a possibility having been in the play-offs in four of the past six campaigns.
What changes has he made?
The style of play is different to an extent to the team under Frank Lampard last season. Derby look to control games more with possession while Lampard's side was quicker in transition with players such as Mason Mount and Harry Wilson. He has brought in young players such as Max Bird and Jason Knight, while Morgan Whittaker and Louie Sibley have also been handed game time.
What impact has Wayne Rooney had on the club since his move to Pride Park?
He has had a huge impact. He has taken on the captaincy, played all but 14 minutes of his 13 games of which the Rams have won six and drawn four. His influence on the players around him, especially the younger players like Max Bird and Jason Knight, has also been important.
Who are the main threats?
Wayne Rooney has shown he is capable of running a game, as he did in the four-goal demolition of Stoke City and in the FA Cup win away against Crystal Palace. Martyn Waghorn is top scorer with 12 goals and has been effective either as a centre forward or when operating in a right-side attacking role. He has scored four goals in his last seven games.
What is Derby's target for this season/where do you think they will finish?
Like most teams, to finish the season strongly in order to carry forward some positivity into next season. Never rule out anything in this division as two or three wins or defeats can leave a team looking up or over its shoulder. Derby are 11 points outside the play-off places with 11 games to play and it does not take a mathematician to realise it would take a mighty effort and upswing in form to bridge such a gap. As it stands now, a top-half finish has to be the first target given they have barely dipped a toe in the top half in three months.