O’Connor opens up on Deeney transfer as Derby face England worry

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Talent ID

Martin O’Connor insists it took him just one training session to know Troy Deeney was going to make the most of his footballing talents.

That came in 15 years ago, when O’Connor had recently ended a playing career that saw him make more than 200 appearances for Birmingham City – and when Deeney was an 18-year-old at the very beginning of his.

O’Connor was manager of Halesowen Town when he approached another of his former clubs, Walsall, to see if he could borrow a striker and a centre-back.

Deeney and Manny Smith went to The Grove for a month, during which time the teenager impressed and more than justified O’Connor’s initial assessment.

“Walsall were not keen on him,” O’Connor told BirminghamLive, “I think (head of youth) Micky Halsall fancied him but for whatever reason the powers-that-be at Walsall didn’t.

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“He came in and to be fair him and Manny were fantastic, Troy was brilliant. Raw but from the first training session you could tell he had something – without question.

“A leader, young, big, strong, quick, could score goals. And his attitude, although there were a few references to his attitude at Walsall, was brilliant.

“He came in every night training, scored eight in 10 games for us and got us up the table.

“After that I spoke to Paul Taylor, who was then general manager/technical director at Walsall and said: ‘Look, if you don’t sign him up, one of the big clubs is sniffing around and they will take him’. I said: ‘From what he has done with us you have got to take him’.”

READ MORE: ‘Ruffle a few feathers’ – Birmingham City favourite gives inside track on unleashing Troy Deeney

Team predictor

Birmingham City return to Championship action on Friday night when they face Wayne Rooney, Ravel Morrison and Derby County.

They will hope to do so with new signing Troy Deeney ready for a Blues debut that little more a week ago seemed so unlikely.

Deeney’s arrival gives Lee Bowyer another senior and experienced option up front – an area of the pitch were the squad has been thin for most of the last two or three years.

However, Deeney’s arrival also means Blues’ head coach has a very pressing selection call of who to pair up front.

Deeney has played most of his career as a target man, as has workhorse Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Meanwhile Scott Hogan is more of a ‘run in behind’ type whose skillset would appear to complement either Jutkiewicz’s or Deeney.

And then there’s the choice between Gary Gardner and Ivan Sunjic in midfield, with Ryan Woods seemingly a lock on one central berth.

There’s also the question of whether to introduce Dion Sanderson into what has so far been a very stable defence.

This is what we think Bowyer will do on Friday night – register and you can have your say here .

READ MORE: Deeney, Hogan, Jutkiewicz – Birmingham City predicted XI for Derby County clash

Ravel focus

Ravel Morrison’s enormous natural ability is no secret. For almost all of his career turning that potential into performances certainly has been.

Yet it has been done for short periods. The player Sir Alex Ferguson considered to be the best youngster he had ever seen had good spells at both West Ham and Birmingham City.

And now, as he is set to return to St Andrew’s as a Derby County player, there are very early signs that the 28-year-old is producing quality displays once more.

Assuming he doesn’t play for Jamaica against Costa Rica in the early hours of Thursday morning, Morrison will line-up against Blues looking to help Wayne Rooney achieve more precious Championship points whilst also serving up a reminder of that promising season under Lee Clark in 2012/2013.

We spoke to Derby fan and DerbyshireLive writer Richard Cusack to find out how Rooney has been getting some decent showings out of his former Old Trafford team-mate.

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What was your initial reaction to his signing?

RC: When he was first linked with the club you are thinking about Den Haag – contract terminated, Middlesbrough – only three games and his time at Östersund. He came on trial for quite a bit and you are wondering if he can still produce it – but to be fair he was amazing in the friendlies.

By the time he eventually signed most of the fans were onside mindful of the fact Derby were limited in terms of who they could sign

READ MORE: How ‘the Rooney factor’ is helping this ex-Man Utd and Birmingham City man find his form at Derby County

Rams worry

Derby County face a defensive reshuffle when they visit Birmingham City on Friday night.

The Rams have been hit by a three match ban retrospectively handed to Craig Forsyth after he appeared to stamp on Nottingham Forest’s Philip Zinckernagel.

The left-back went unpunished by referee Tim Robinson at the time but after action by the Football Association will now miss the games against Blues, West Brom and Stoke City.

That could mean just a second Championship start of the season for 20-year-old Lee Buchanan.

And the Rams also face an anxious wait over Kamil Jozwiak’s availability.

The winger has started six of the seven games including the last four but is on international duty with Poland, who play England in a World Cup qualifier in Warsaw on Wednesday, kick off 7.45pm.

He started and played 90 minutes in Poland’s 4-1 victory over Albania last Wednesday night, and was an unused substitute in Sunday’s 7-1 win against San Marino.

Striker Sam Baldock is expected to be available. Baldock has sat out the Carabao Cup tie against Sheffield United and the league clash with Forest due to a hamstring problem but should return to a forward line missing Colin Kazim-Richards.

The striker faces 12 weeks out after sustaining an Achilles injury against Peterborough last month.

READ MORE: Derby County face both a defensive reshuffle and Poland-England worry ahead of Birmingham City visit

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