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Irish Knight is back on right track after his accidental collision with Rooney

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Republic of Ireland's Jason Knight at the announcement of Jigsaw as the official Charity Partner of the FAI. The innovative partnership will see the FAI and Jigsaw work together under a new ‘Standing Together For Youth Mental Health’ banner for the next two years initially. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland's Jason Knight at the announcement of Jigsaw as the official Charity Partner of the FAI. The innovative partnership will see the FAI and Jigsaw work together under a new ‘Standing Together For Youth Mental Health’ banner for the next two years initially. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland's Jason Knight at the announcement of Jigsaw as the official Charity Partner of the FAI. The innovative partnership will see the FAI and Jigsaw work together under a new ‘Standing Together For Youth Mental Health’ banner for the next two years initially. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

With a high-profile manager at his club, Jason Knight naturally expects people to ask him about what it’s like to work with Wayne Rooney.

Since July, however, the elephant in the room has been the issue of what it’s like to be injured by him.

News that Rooney had accidentally taken out one of his best players was the nadir of a chaotic pre-season period when financial issues forced the club to enter administration and incur a 12-point deduction that left Derby playing catch-up before the campaign began with new signings forbidden.

Numbers were low on the training ground when the household name boss lost his footing and gave Knight an ankle injury that ruled him out of the early weeks of the season, including Ireland’s September international window.

“It was just a slip from the gaffer in training. It has been well documented,” said Knight yesterday, after coming through his first training session ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Portugal.

“Just a freak accident and thankfully I am back from it and playing a lot now and I’m doing alright. I hope he was devastated,” he laughed, when asked to elaborate. “He obviously didn’t mean anything. I haven’t had too many injuries so it is something I had to deal with, and I have come past it, and am stronger for it.”

Derby are appealing the sanction and sit five points adrift at the bottom of the table as it stands, with a relegation battle inevitable. Indeed, there are fears that a further points punishment is on the way rather than a removal of the damaging 12-point punch in the gut. 

“It’s a difficult time for the club but there are still some great people there. Obviously going into administration, people were fearing for their jobs and livelihoods. But it’s a great place to play, especially as a young player coming through, there are some great people and coaches behind the scenes,” he added.

“I think I’m maturing a lot – it’s under a lot of pressure with certain stuff that’s going on but I think it’s going to help me in the long run to mature as a player.”

Knight’s evolution has allowed him to gain experience in a variety of midfield positions. Frank Lampard was an early influence but he made his full breakthrough under Philippe Cocu before the Dutchman made way for Rooney.

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He has some experience in a deep-lying role but is primarily viewed as a box-to-box player with an eye for goal.

In Stephen Kenny’s new Ireland system, a 3-4-2-1 that can function as a 3-4-3, Knight looks to be considered as an option for the two players behind the striker. That’s where he featured in Budapest in the summer and off the bench against Qatar last month.

“I really like it,” says the Cabinteely product. “Look, as long as I am playing I am happy.

“I have played a lot of positions for Derby so I know it quite well and obviously the gaffer here has seen me play for Derby so he feels comfortable putting me in there.

“It has been really good playing in different positions, another string to my bow. I feel comfortable on the ball, no matter where I play so hopefully I can get a few minutes.”

Knight was a frustrated TV viewer in September, watching with frustration as Cristiano Ronaldo eventually broke Ireland down at the death.

“The lads performed really well, unfortunately we lost the game but I think we took a lot of encouragement from that and took it into the next camp and got two very good results,” he continued.

“There are a lot of really good midfielders in the squad so there’s really good competition and that’s only going to make us better.”


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