Wayne Rooney wasn’t the type of player one could imagine ending up in management. He wasn’t the most vocal, and despite being a special talent, he didn’t strike pundits as an obvious candidate to coach, let alone manage. However, after his record-breaking England career ended and his trophy-laded playing career petered out, he found himself in the hot seat at Derby County. Since he began his tenure, it has been a challenging place to start his life as a manager. Yes, the Challenging Start to Wayne Rooney’s Managerial Career
Derby County are a club steeped in tradition; they’ve appeared in the Premier League and are usually amongst the front-runners in the English Championship. Rooney came in on the back of a disappointing stint for Phillip Cocu, just 18 months after another England legend, Frank Lampard had taken them to the Championship play-off final.
Since he arrived, it has been challenging for the former Manchester United man. His side narrowly avoided relegation last season, but through the summer, Rooney couldn’t sign players. The Derby Telegraph explains how they were hit by a transfer embargo, meaning their wafer-thin squad started the season severely depleted, with Rooney’s hands thoroughly tied. Despite that, they made a brave start to their campaign, losing just two of their opening eight matches. That left them on ten points and firmly ensconced in midtable.
Off the field, events have overshadowed that early promise. Rooney himself has been at the center of one incident, a reported blackmail attempt after a night out. That came in the middle of the financial drama overshadowing the club, and in mid-September, they finally entered administration. That means a 12-point deduction, leaving them on minus two points for the season. There’s more to come as well; they’re facing a further nine-point deduction for financial irregularities that occurred before Rooney took the helm. Despite the first points deduction, they’re still not favorites to be relegated in the latest Championship odds from Ladbrokes Peterborough, Blackpool, and Hull are tipped to finish in the bottom three. Any further deduction would likely see Derby installed as outright certainties for the drop.
Whilst many managers might have given up and gone home by now, Rooney is emerging as a real leader of men. Putting his slight personal indiscretion aside, the 35-year-old is doing an impressive job. He was forced to bring in several free agents over the summer, and not being bottom after eight games was a huge achievement, considering they added the likes of Ryan Allsop (released by relegated Wycombe) and 39-year-old Phil Jagielka. They promoted some of their promisings Under 23 players, and Rooney deserves great credit for guiding them to two wins. His requirements from his players are clear: “I want characters,” he said recently. “Lads who are willing to fight for each other. I made it clear on the first day with them if you’re not willing to do that, but the effort in, the door’s there, you can walk out.”
He’s also won the respect of fans, despite a modest 30% win ratio whilst in charge. He’s been upfront about the problems he has faced, and he’s shown great empathy to the families and employees affected by the recent move into administration. Most of all, he has continually reiterated his commitment to the cause. “I am committed to this club, I am committed to the group of players, I am committed to the staff, I care about them. I will keep doing everything I can to help us get through this. I think we will get through this for the better.”
Whilst he might have had a tough start, there’s little doubt Wayne Rooney is playing a bad hand as best he can, and it might yet stand him in good stead for better things in the future. Whether that is with Derby County in the long term remains to be seen.