What was supposed to be a game of ‘foot golf’ descended into a heavy drinking session, a car crash and the captain sustaining a serious knee injury.
Two of Derby County’s senior players – Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett – were charged with drink driving this week and skipper Richard Keogh suffered his injury in the crash.
Derby have condemned the incident, while manager Phillip Cocu said plans to play foot golf as a team bonding session after training were changed because of the rain, so the squad went bowling instead, followed by a team meal.
The Rams have revealed Keogh was among those who continued drinking and Cocu admitted his captain is ‘extremely down’ and ‘feels responsible’ for the incident.
Cocu, who has yet to decide whether Lawrence and Bennett could feature against Birmingham on Saturday, said: “The first idea was foot golf but the weather was really bad so we changed plans and went bowling.
“After that there was a team dinner where the team sat together for some bonding. Most of the players left around 8pm and a small group stayed and continued at the bar.
“Due to an alcohol-related incident we’ve lost our captain for the rest of the season, so in the end it was bad news for the whole team.
“It’s bad news and a bad situation for everybody at the club.”
A video later emerged showing 23-year-old Bennett downing a pint and being sick in a toilet.
Someone can be heard shouting ‘get it all out, Mas’ as the forward throws up.
Another is heard saying: ‘F***ing three pints of Peroni are f*****g strong these days’.
Cocu, who was not present at the meal, suggested there will be disciplinary action taken against those involved but is eager to establish exactly what went on first.
Asked whether 33-year-old Keogh’s injury could even be career-threatening, the Dutchman simply reiterated it is ‘a very serious injury’.
“I’ve spoken to him. He was [at the training ground] for a short moment and I spoke briefly to him because there’s a lot going on.
“He’s extremely down, of course, because he realises what’s going on for him personally and of course as a responsible player, as captain, to not be part of the team any more does something to you.
“I think he feels responsible, yeah.
“The more senior players always have to step up and take responsibility and it’s now had a huge effect on him personally. It’s a lot to deal with for him.”
A statement from Championship club on Tuesday condemned the incident.
“The players were out as part of a scheduled team-building dinner with staff and while the majority of them acted responsibly and left at around 8pm and were not involved, a small group, including the team captain Richard Keogh, continued drinking into the night. They should have known when to stop and also ignored the opportunity to be driven home using cars laid on by the club, and chose to stay out.
“The players involved in the incident on Tuesday evening will be subject to a rigorous internal investigation under the club’s code of conduct and disciplinary procedures, but over and above any punishment they receive we will be expecting them to become involved with the excellent work the Community Trust does helping the communities we serve.
“We have been very clear about our attitude towards alcohol and the players know that at certain and specific times of the season they are permitted a drink together as a group in a controlled environment.
“Those involved in Tuesday’s incident know they will pay a heavy price for their actions, but also that we will support them with their rehabilitation back into the squad and team.
“We fully support the work of our partners at Drinkaware and the unsanctioned actions of this small group of players is totally at odds the stance that both Drinkaware and Derby County Football Club take regards alcohol. We will be using this situation to redouble our efforts in highlighting the dangers posed by alcohol.
“We would also like to thank the emergency services for their swift help.”
In August, Derby announced they would complete the shock signing of England and Man United legend Wayne Rooney as player/coach.
The 33-year-old said the opportunity to return home was too good to refuse and the Rams will need all his experience to lift them from 18th in the table and get their promotion bid back on track.