Wayne Rooney has been Derby’s permanent manager for barely two months, but the England record scorer has had to cope with more in that period than many bosses in a decade.
In ten weeks, Rooney has gotten a tune from a crew whose December wages were not paid on time. He has seen Derventio Holdings’ long-term takeover bid collapse, a Covid outbreak and ongoing concerns about the club’s financial future.
He is still awaiting the outcome of a dispute with the EFL that could still impact the Rams’ bid to stay in the championship. Relegation battles are hard enough without so much going on in the background.
Wayne Rooney has been thrown into management by taking over Derby
For most of his stint, Rooney’s results have been hugely impressive. Before meeting Nottingham Forest on February 26, Derby had scored 31 points from 18 games since taking sole control of team affairs following Phillip Cocu’s resignation last November.
If Rooney keeps Derby in the division, given they were at the bottom of the table with six points when the Dutchman was sent off, that will be a phenomenal achievement.
However, life is certainly not getting any easier. Derby entered the international break after a run of seven games without a win, with Rooney often changing his team significantly from game to game.
For most of Rooney’s two-month period in charge, Derby’s results were hugely impressive
They are five points above the relegation zone and know that a deduction is possible if the EFL wins their appeal against the ruling of an independent panel, which had examined how Derby measured the value of their players. Derby was originally approved and has vowed to ‘vigorously resist’ the call.
Rooney has generally put down an impressive public figure – as expected from a man who has had massive media attention his entire adult life – although there have been certain signs of inexperience in recent weeks.
Rooney said on Thursday that attacker Martyn Waghorn was ‘excellent’ in training. Two days later he explained that Waghorn had been left out of the squad due to the 1-0 defeat at Stoke due to his ‘behavior’ in the next day’s session.
However, Derby is struggling to stay on and has recently played seven games without a win
Rooney’s record since he took over full-time
Even if Waghorn had been brilliant one day and terrible the next, the statements were shocked together. Rooney may decide to take a different approach if a similar problem arises again.
Compare Rooney to some of the other members of the English ‘Golden Generation’ who became managers. Only Sol Campbell, who performed a minor miracle by keeping Macclesfield in the Football League in 2019 before taking up the Southend post, has faced similarly dire circumstances.
Steven Gerrard coached the youngsters of Liverpool before moving to Rangers; Frank Lampard spent time in the TV studio before taking the job at Derby; while John Terry remains on Dean Smith’s coaching staff at Aston Villa.
Rooney confirmed that he had only stopped playing when he signed a two and a half year contract as Derby boss and oversaw a home defeat against Rotherham the next day. As one of the best footballers his country has produced, Rooney earned more fanfare for his playing career.
Rooney had no luxury in hiring a coach he trusts, like Frank Lampard did with Jody Morris (L)
CHAMPIONSHIP RELEGATION ODDS
Sheffield Wed: 1/9
Birmingham City: 5/6
Rotherham United: 10/23
Derby County: 9/2
Coventry City: 9/2
Huddersfield Town: 10/1
Preston North End: 20/1
Nottingham Forest: 35/1
Opportunities courtesy of Betfair
The most successful managers usually have at least one coach or assistant they know and trust completely. When Lampard took over at Derby in 2018, he brought Jody Morris, a former teammate and savvy operator, as he had proven with Chelsea’s Under 23 squad. At Ibrox, Steven Gerrard has Gary McAllister, a colleague from Liverpool’s triple-winning team, by his side.
Rooney, on the other hand, inherited his backroom staff: assistant manager Liam Rosenior, first-team development coach Justin Walker and first-team coach Shay Given. Former England manager Steve McClaren was hired by owner Mel Morris as technical director in November. Rooney was happy with those arrangements, but only time will tell if it was the right decision.
He was recently appointed Manchester United’s new technical director, but Darren Fletcher would certainly have been an ideal addition to Rooney’s staff. Likewise, an experienced figure who has seen it all, in the form of Craig Shakespeare in Aston Villa, Ray Lewington in Crystal Palace or Alan Irvine in West Ham.
Due to his status in the game – England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer and a winner of 12 major trophies – Rooney will have no problem attracting players, as he showed on deadline day this winter when five were on loan. . He has set his sights on a future in coaching and management since his early days at Manchester United and has been preparing ever since.
Rooney still talks to his old boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, and regularly calls him for advice
Rooney still speaks to Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes for advice and has regular Zoom group discussions with current colleagues to share ideas and opinions.
His passion for football is as strong as it was when he broke into the Everton team nearly 20 years ago as a 16-year-old.
Still, life in the championship is merciless, especially for budding bosses. Rooney has had some incredible heights in his career, but right now he would give a great deal for three points against Luton next week.
Rooney has had a lot to do off the field and it will be an achievement to keep Derby afloat