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“If they are good enough, they are old enough”- Door Opens For Bennett
Wednesday, 9th Oct 2013 03:50 by Daniel J Sewart

In recent years, good form for a Derby player can be a curse as it seems injury will soon follow. Johnny Russell will miss around 6 weeks with a fractured fibula, a body blow to both club and player after a fine performance on Saturday. But Johnny’s bad news may be good news for another Rams player waiting in the wings….

Russell sustained the injury to his fibula in the closing stages of the victory over Leeds and scans revealed he will be sidelined for one to two months. Ironically the 23 year old sustained a similar injury last season at Dundee United which kept him out for two months.

That time around Russell still managed to score 20 goals in 38 appearances for the campaign. Fingers crossed it is a carbon copy of that situation and the goals flow on return and he gets the other 15 required to match that total.

Despite not being a huge injury list, it is the quality of player on the sidelines that is the main concern. When you add Russell to Coutts & Hendrick, all of whom are regular starters for the first team, a small squad quickly looks even smaller. Another injury to an important player could derail things very quickly.

In the positive column – the Rams only have four matches during that time with the current and another international break to come. After that, players will begin to return to fitness plus January will be just around the corner (we will find out then how much GSE are really willing to chase promotion).

Though team mates do not delight in the injuries of others (well…. not out loud anyway!), there will be some players who will see the injury as an opportunity to press for a regular starting spot under new manager…. Sorry, sorry… ‘Head Coach’ Steve McClaren.

Conor Sammon will be looking to take Russell’s place as despite not being a like for like replacement for Russell in terms of size and pace, he has a good turn of speed off the mark and strength that would complement the skill of Martin (who prefers to fall over). The main draw back is and has always been, Sammon’s finishing ability.

He gets into great positions regularly and is not afraid to shoot but somehow manages to miss when, on many occasions, it seems as if it would be easier to score.

Maybe former Rams striker Paul Simpson can polish his shooting prowess and bring the last piece to the jigsaw of his game. If that happens then Sammon could light up the league as he has genuine skill, desire and boundless energy. If he learns to finish – then watch out!!

The other option, who is knocking on the door louder, with every appearance he makes as a sub, is youngster Mason Bennett. He is a more like for like replacement with great pace, skill, a mature physique and importantly is a quality finisher.

His football nous belies his years and easily dispels any doubt that he still needs to be slowly worked into regular football. As former Manchester United manager Matt Busby famously said; “If they are good enough, they are old enough”.

Like Will Hughes, Bennett is ready to go and if let off the chain for a few starts could go off like a bomb as he is given orders to stamp his name on McClaren’s team sheet.

The other option is to move Jamie Ward up front and give the long suffering Michael Jacobs a chance to stand up instead of sitting down for most of the match. Ward is a proven goal scorer and would be ideal but only if Jacobs fills the role that Ward played so brilliantly against Leeds.

If the injury situation did worsen - we also have Callum Ball who has just returned from a loan spell at Torquay United. Despite not being a raging success, in the past has shown glimpses of potential and maybe under a new coaching team will deliver on his promise.

So who should McClaren promote?

I love Conor Sammon and desperately want him to succeed as he is a player fans want to love with so much genuine heart and determination. Sadly until he proves he can finish his good work regularly – he will find it tough to make his mark.

In turn Jamie Ward would do the job but I like the role he played on Saturday and would like things to stay that way (despite the fact I would like to see Jacobs back in the team).

For me it’s Mason Bennett.

It’s time to give the youngster a start and not just for the one match. If I was Steve McClaren I would tell him that he has the four matches that Johnny Russell will miss and to go out and make the most of it.

Take away the threat of a 'one match only' chance on which his spot may hinge, instead let the youngster feel like he has a few matches to get his groove and hopefully goals. With so many potential goal scorers around him, if he didn't fire immediately, someone else should be able to pick up the slack.

On past form, Steve McClaren seems just the type of manager who would give the youngster a call up, especially one who is now a walk up starter for each England's U21's clash. If he is good enough for England at that level, he is good enough for the Rams.

His age really should not be an issue as Bennett doesn’t look like he needs baby sitting and frankly in recent weeks looks more like bullying defenders than vice versa.

If he does need support, then he has the likes of Bryson, Eustace, Ward and Martin to turn to. Experienced players like that will be the equivalent of cotton wool, taking much focus off him, especially with the spotlight firmly on Will Hughes, Bennett may just slip under the radar as they focus on the boy wonder and Bryson who is also in red hot form.

The strikers have nearly 10 days of training to prove that they deserve the call up for the Watford clash and despite the injury to Russell being disappointing, the Rams have many capable options. Despite the squad looking thinner by the week, in attack Derby have reinforcements capable of being a handful for any defence.

Whoever Macca chooses will find the door open for them and once they get inside, it will be up to them to convince those who matter that they deserve to stay there.

Photo: Action Images

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