Will Wayne Rooney be the next Derby County manager?
It was almost too good to be true two seasons ago, when Frank Lampard, fresh into next Derby County manager, guided a vastly youthful Derby County side to a sixth-place finish in the EFL Championship. Of course, it culminated in heartache underneath the arches of Wembley, as the Rams lost out to Aston Villa in the play-off final. But since then, the fans haven’t had anything to shout about. Lampard’s departure from Pride Park led to the need for a next Derby County manager, and Phillip Cocu was brought in.
The start of the 2019-20 season was one to forget – and with just six wins by the halfway point in the season, the Rams sat in 17th, just a mere seven points above the relegation places. It was in fact the arrival of Wayne Rooney, fresh from his escapades in the MLS at DC United, that galvanised their season. The former England international joined Derby as a player/coach, he was instantly made captain, and his experience and talent was there for all to see.
The points soon picked up, and the Rams lost just three out of 16 matches after the New Year, which saw them in with an outside chance of the play-offs, with a handful of games remaining. At last, it seemed the Championship odds may favour them once more. But it wasn’t to be and a poor end to the campaign saw a run of four defeats – all against fellow rivals in the top six, at the time – ultimately putting an end to those play-off dreams. They eventually finished tenth, their worst league performance for seven years, with a total of 64 points.
But it has only got worse. Just last month, Derby sat rock bottom of the Championship table, and with just one win from 11 games, Cocu left by mutual agreement. The Dutchman departed with both assistant manager Chris van der Weerden and Specialist First Team Coach, Twan Scheepers. Rooney, alongside Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker then shared the interim duties, but they were unable to stop the rot, with three back-to-back defeats prompting the board to make drastic measures.
Appointing former England manager Steve McClaren has consequently seen Rooney take sole charge of the Rams, with many believing that a young and inexperienced manager will take to the helm under the guidance of McClaren. While Rooney is still only interim manager, he’s turned the tide since removing himself as a player. He first took charge against Wycombe Wanderers and the Rams are currently on a four-match unbeaten run under his stewardship. They’re still in the drop-zone, and one point from safety, but gaps are starting to show in the table.
As things stand, Rooney is among the favourites in the betting markets to be handed the Derby County job full-time, with former England international John Terry at the forefront of predictions. He’s made no secret that he wishes to get into management, but it’s understood that the appointment of the next manager will made once the takeover of the club – by Sheikh Khaled, cousin of Manchester City owner, Sheikh Mansour – is complete. It has been approved by the EFL, but yet to be officially confirmed.
The real test comes in under a fortnight when Derby travel to fellow strugglers Rotherham United. If Rooney can continue his unbeaten run up until that point, and even get three important points at the New York Stadium, surely, he will be the man for the job.