Absent key player could have been the difference in Derby's promotion push

With the game between Derby County and Nottingham Forest coming up at the iPro Stadium, we take a look back at a player who suffered a career threatening injury two years ago in this fixture. A player many believe could have been the difference for the Rams this season.

Football can be a cruel career at times, which is something that is forgotten by supporters when crying blue murder about how much so-and-so earns.

This was a lesson learnt by everyone at Pride Park (now the iPro Stadium) when Derby County's captain Shaun Barker was carried off the pitch with 15-minutes to go against Forest two season ago.

The silver-lining for Rams fans of course was Barker's replacement, Jake Buxton, going on to score the eventual winner in the 94th minute. However, with the Rams going so close to the top two this season, it begs the question, would Barker have been the difference for McClaren's men?

He was undoubtedly, when in his prime, one of the top centre-backs in the league, often described by former manager Nigel Clough as a 'colossus'.

The strengths that Shaun Barker brought to the team, are arguably the things Derby County have been missing at the back this season too. A large majority of the goals Derby County have conceded this season have come from set-pieces and balls in the box.

Take the Forest game for example, the game was decided by a well-worked set-play that saw commanding centre-half Jack Hobbs head home in the 40th minute.

Goals of that ilk have become all too common for the Rams this season, although it has to be said since the turn of the new year they have become better in this particular area.

News in the past week revealed the Derby County captain is now back on his feet and finally jogging outside. Although after two years out of the game, whilst encouraging is met with skepticism.

I think it would be a shame if Barker was to never play in a competitive match again, especially after so much hard-work to get back to fitness. I am, however, sure if he ever did get to pull on the white of Derby County again, he would receive a rousing ovation from all the supporters.

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