Paul Cook has backed Alex Bruce to make the most of his big chance at Rotherham with Wigan Athletic without the services of defensive colossus Dan Burn.
Burn has been an ever-present in the league and FA Cup this term, having been named as ‘club captain’ – alongside ‘team captain’ Sam Morsy – over the summer.
However, a fifth booking of the season in midweek means a one-match ban – and a chance for Bruce to show what he can do alongside Chey Dunkley.
“Alex will come in at centre-half, and he’s another who’s waited for his chance,” admitted boss Paul Cook.
“The good thing about football is you don’t usually have to wait long to get a chance in the side, for whatever reason. Once you get that chance, it’s up to you.”
Latics have won four of the five games Bruce has played this term – the exception being the 1-0 defeat at Shrewsbury.
Cook acknowledged the huge gap the 6’7 giant will leave – quite literally – in the backline.
“From my time here he’s been one of the massive plusses – both as a player and also as a lad,” enthused Cook.
“The effect he has on the place, every single day, is so good.
“We’re massively disappointed to lose him for the game, but that’s that – there’s no excuses, there’s nothing we can do.”
Burn has fallen at the penultimate hurdle of the suspension tightrope, with five bookings no longer triggering an automatic one-match ban after this weekend.
And a quirk of the fixture list, and rules, in Rotherham’s favour has left a sour taste in the mouth of Cook.
“Rotherham were allowed to postpone their game in midweek, against Bristol Rovers, with two of their two key players (on four bookings) now able to go past the suspension date,” explained Cook.
“If they’d have got booked on Tuesday night, they’d have been banned for Saturday. If they avoid a booking on Saturday, they don’t get suspended.
“I think that’s a little bit...when you’re talking key players, it’s huge.
“We’re disappointed that game didn’t go ahead, but that’s part and parcel of the game. But that’s just me whingeing.”
Cook also reveaaled Nick Powell will not make the trip to South Yorkshire, with the hamstring strain he picked up last weekend against Bradford not having sufficiently healed.
“We’re just watching this space with Nick,” Cook said.
“Obviously he’s hurt his hamstring, and it can be a dangerous injury.
“We don’t think he’s pulled it, sometimes it can be just fatigue-related. But you’ve got to be careful.
“We could have looked at possibly having him involved, but then you find yourself looking at the risk and the rewards.”
Cook will be able to call on the services of Ryan Colclough, who trained on Friday after a most eventful week on a personal level.