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Covid-19 outbreak forces Derby County to field youth side in FA Cup third round

The Rams are due to play Chorley in the third round on Saturday.

Interim Derby County manager Wayne Rooney.
Interim Derby County manager Wayne Rooney.
Image: PA

DERBY COUNTY CHIEF executive Stephen Pearce has confirmed the club will send a group of U23 and U18 players to play in the FA Cup at Chorley on Saturday following a coronavirus outbreak which has closed their training ground.

Manager Wayne Rooney and Derby’s entire first-team squad will miss the third-round tie in Lancashire, with Pearce revealing nine players and staff within that bubble have tested positive for Covid-19.

Derby are able to play their younger players in the cup as they operate within a different bubble, although the group will be tested on Thursday morning to ensure none of them have contracted coronavirus.

“The first-team and coaching staff are in isolation until early next week when they are re-tested,” Pearce told Sky Sports. “But we will be able to fulfil our fixture against Chorley as the Football Association regulations are slightly different to the EFL.

“If you’ve got 14 registered players – and it doesn’t matter whether they are academy registered or first-team registered – you are obliged to fulfil the fixture if you can, unless for other reasons if you want to apply.

“We still have 16 players we are still able to put out on Saturday. As a club we’re quite pleased to do that and we’re keen to get the game up and running.

“It’s a great opportunity for those guys, and for Pat Lyons and Gary Bowyer, who will be taking the team on the weekend.”

Pearce said Derby have had to make alternative training arrangements for their new cup squad. As well as the training ground being closed, the Rams took advantage of three weeks without a home fixture to re-turf the Pride Park pitch.

Derby’s youngsters will now prepare for a cup tie against National League North hosts by spending two days at nearby St George’s Park, the FA’s national football centre. The FA will also cover the cost of the coronavirus tests taken by the Derby squad.

Pearce said: “Fingers crossed, those guys will get the opportunity to play in the FA Cup on Saturday.

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“After the positive tests on Monday morning for Covid, we had consultations with the EFL, the FA and Public Health England and we were advised to quarantine and close our training ground.

“Part of the issue we’ve got as well, is that a lot of our younger academy talent are in that first-team squad bubble.

“We also had some of them on the bench against Sheffield Wednesday (on Friday), so it takes those out of the equation. But because we operate with the strict protocols of the different bubbles, we are able to fulfil the fixture.”

The fixture at Chorley’s Victory Park has been selected for live TV coverage and is scheduled to kick-off at 12.15pm on Saturday.

Speaking before the news was confirmed, manager Jamie Vermiglio said: “The last thing we want is to be playing against an U18 side. It’s our chance to shine against good players. For Wayne Rooney to come would just be the pinnacle for us.”

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