Jason Knight, in action for Ireland against Qatar in March. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
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Jason Knight aiming to make mark against Portugal after injury inflicted by his own manager

Knight is hoping to play against Portugal on Thursday night, having missed the game in Faro through an injury caused by Wayne Rooney.

STEPHEN KENNY MAY have yelled Full House on his bingo card of cosmic misfortune back in September, when it emerged that Jason Knight would miss a triple-header of internationals having been injured in training.

By his manager. 

A transfer embargo during pre-season left Derby with just nine senior players registered with the club, so Rooney took part in some sessions to make up the numbers. He tackled Knight in one of them and injured his young midfielder’s ankle, sidelining him for the first two months of the season. It also meant Knight was unavailable for the most hectic part of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier schedule: three games across six days with Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia. 

“It was just a slip from the gaffer in training”, says Knight. “It has been well documented in the past. 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 obviously didn’t mean anything. It could have kept me out for a few weeks. 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.” 

Knight is only 20 but has played 90 senior games and is approaching veteran status at Derby, a club currently laden with problems. They avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season but look odds-on to go down this time, currently nine points from safety  following a 12-point deduction for entering administration.

It may yet get even worse. They are facing another nine-point deduction over an alleged breach of EFL financial regulations, though The Athletic report they are optimistic that punishment will be cut to three points. The same outlet reports the ongoing appeal against the initial 12-point penalty is “likely to fall on deaf ears.” 

There has been one chink of light amid the pall of darkness: there are reportedly two interested buyers of the club. 

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

“I am enjoying playing my football there at the moment.”

millwall-v-derby-county-sky-bet-championship-the-den Wayne Rooney and Jason Knight. PA PA

Among the many skills Knight has developed at Derby has been versatility. In last Saturday’s draw with Millwall alone, for instance, he played in an attacking No 10 role, central midfield and right-back. He also spent some time on the right wing in the previous game against Barnsley. 

When he has been available under Stephen Kenny, Knight has generally played an attacking role off the right side, having started the March defeat to Luxembourg alongside Josh Cullen in central midfield. 

“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.”

That Rooney tackle meant Knight was left to watch the heart-ripping defeat in Portugal from his home in Derby, but he says he’s ready to start the return game in Dublin on Thursday if asked to. 

“I think it is going to be a tough game against Portugal but everyone feels confident off the back of a couple of camps. I think we are in a good place going into the game on Thursday.”

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