Wayne Rooney shows his class in Derby County and played a key role in the fight against Forest … parallels with Rams legend Dave Mackay are impossible to avoid
- Wayne Rooney influences the promotional pressure of Derby County
- The English legend played an important role in the late derby leveler of the Ram
- The 34-year-old has shades of Pride Park hero Dave Mackay under Brian Clough
Wayne Rooney’s last brush with an English derby didn’t go to plan. After being taken away by Sam Allardyce for less than an hour, he colored Everton’s sky blue as he steamed through the tunnel at Goodison Park.
Two years later, while wearing Derby White in his first East Midlands game, he pushed his legs for the first time since resuming football until the final whistle. This time he was able to exert some influence on the result.
Rooney’s free kick caused the fight that led to an equalization against Nottingham Forest, bundled across the line by Chris Martin in the seventh minute of injury time.
Wayne Rooney shows his class in Derby County as Rams continues their promotional push
Derby’s run of five championship wins came to an end, but the mind is healthy and the hopes of promotion remain.
“I prefer to have him on the field for 90 minutes,” said boss Phillip Cocu. “It was not possible in the games before, but he improves, his condition improves. He’s important to the team, keeping them together, set-plays – and he proved it again. ‘
At age 34, Rooney is more solid than ever, heavily bearded and strong on the ball, thicker around the center than in his prime, but every touch is true and every pass is carefully weighed.
There is still dynamite in his boots. If he wants to go through the ball, he explodes. But he prefers to move it short, looking for a change of angle and the chance to release the young people around him with more pace in their legs.
There are also coaching tasks. At the first water break, with Derby to a stunning goal from Joe Lolley, Cocu spoke to Rooney alone, and when they were done, the captain walked over to 19-year-old Jason Knight to cajole and instruct.
The English legend played the full 90 minutes against Nottingham Forest and was instrumental
He is a midfield general nowadays, although that was not the plan when he arrived in the US from DC United. “My thoughts were that he would be more like a striker or a number 10 as his first option, and he agreed,” said Cocu. “Maybe it was a surprise to both of us that he almost played as a midfielder, and he’s doing so well with his decisions and his passing game.
“Sometimes you can get a different job later in your career and surprise yourself.”
Parallels with Dave Mackay are impossible to avoid. Mackay was already a champion and a legend when Brian Clough persuaded him to leave Tottenham for Derby at the age of 34, move to the second level and adapt from midfield to central defense.
Dave Mackay was already a legend when he moved from Tottenham to Brian Clough’s Derby
“The most beautiful work of my life,” Clough called it. Mackay embraced the challenge, led them to promotion and finished fourth on the top flight.
He left his mark on young players such as Roy McFarland. “What a leader he was,” said McFarland. “The photos you see of Dave are with chest outstretched – that’s how he played and lived his life.”
Mackay had left to pursue his managerial ambitions by the time Derby won the title in 1972, but he returned to secure his place in Derby folklore by leaving the Forest dugout to replace Clough and take them to their second title, in 1975.
Mackay returned to dugout to replace Clough a few years later to lead them to their 1975 title
Images of these times at the Baseball Ground are plastered on the walls of Pride Park. A statue of Mackay guards the players’ entrance and a flag in his honor was draped over empty seats in the South Stand behind the goal where Martin tied the tying goal on Saturday after Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba was not in it managed to get Rooney’s deep free kick.
England’s record scorer did not increase his total of six goals for Derby, nor did he enjoy his most effective showing. Forest worked hard to overcome his threat and deny him the channels.
Indeed, Derby may fall short of promotion this season, but just like Mackay, Rooney leads his chest out.
He made sure they didn’t budge. Not even when only 10 men followed Martyn Waghorn’s red card for a dangerous tackle. And this time he was still there when they went to a crucial point.