Wayne Rooney’s challenge was reported as the cause of Jason Knight’s 12-week lay-off after the Derby County manager injured his player in a training ground tackle.
Stephen Kenny will be without his rising midfield star for the Republic of Ireland’s September World Cup qualification triple-header against Portugal, Azerbaijan, and Serbia as he nurses his damaged ankle.
Rooney, while revealing the extent of the 20-year-old’s injury on Saturday, didn’t elaborate on the source of the problem. Knight had already missed the last two pre-season friendlies against Manchester United and Salford City.
According to the Daily Telegraph, however, the manager’s own involvement in an accidental 50/50 challenge has led to Knight being sidelined for up to three months.
Derby are beset by financial problems, with Rooney frustrated at the lack of funds for players ahead of their Championship opener against Huddersfield Town on August 7.
To compensate for the paucity of numbers, Rooney is said to have participated in training at Pennyhill Park, the luxury hotel and spa in Surrey where Derby recently stayed for a pre-season camp, where the incident took place.
“Jason will be out for eight to 12 weeks,” Rooney said at the weekend.
“He has rocked his ankle, thankfully, he doesn’t need surgery but needs the time to make sure he gets his ankle strong again.
“Of course (it is a huge blow), everyone knows what Knighty brings to us, he is a fantastic player, great energy, and he will be a loss, but we have to deal with that.”
Although Phillip Cocu afforded Knight an opening to secure a place in the Rams side, it was his successor Rooney who cemented it.
Handing the youngster the captaincy in January underlined the faith the former England and Manchester United captain had in the club’s Academy graduate and Premier League suitors hawking the Irish talent were firmly warned that he wouldn’t be allowed to depart Pride Park.
Knight, a swashbuckling box-to-box midfielder, has enjoyed an equally rapid ascent at international level. The Cabinteely product was last October plucked by Kenny from the U21s preparing for a vital Euro qualifier in Italy into senior duty. He sampled his first minutes as a late substitute against Finland in the Nations League, following it up the next month with another appearance from the bench in Wales and his first start at home to Bulgaria.
Knight grabbed his first senior goal in the 4-1 win over Andorra in June, just a couple of days before his eighth cap in the 0-0 draw in Hungary.
Shorn of his young gun, Kenny is likely to restore Jeff Hendrick to the engine-room alongside Josh Cullen.
Conor Hourihane or Alan Browne are other contenders for berths, depending on which system the manager settles on for the trip to Faro on September 1.
Another midfield option, James McCarthy, remains without a club following his release by Crystal Palace, as does Robbie Brady, whose versatility can see him slot into that position.
The future of Jayson Molumby – another playmaker to figure for Kenny when he was Ireland U21 manager – is uncertain at Brighton too. A loan switch for a third successive season is under consideration.