TOM COLLOMOSSE: Rooney's human touch has united Derby amid meltdown

TOM COLLOMOSSE: Wayne Rooney’s human touch has united Derby fans, players and staff amid the club’s financial meltdown… his stock is high despite suffering relegation, but he deserves the chance to show his skills in a fair fight

  • Derby were relegated to League One after losing 1-0 away at QPR on Monday
  • Wayne Rooney’s side were hit with a 21-point deduction earlier in the season
  • The Rams went into administration in September and also broke transfer rules
  • But Rooney has been the shining light of an otherwise gloomy season for them
  • He has provided a human touch to bring the club together despite their woes

When the contenders for the manager of the year award are chosen, those in charge of relegated teams can usually be disregarded. This season, Wayne Rooney deserves to buck that trend.

The former England captain’s first full campaign as a manager will end with Derby dropping out of the Championship, but that does not even begin to tell the story of what Rooney has experienced during a tumultuous eight months at Pride Park. Nor does the 21-point penalty that made survival virtually impossible.

‘He’s an absolute gem,’ said one long-time Derby employee, of Rooney. ‘A shining light,’ added another. In the darkest moments, Rooney’s human touch has helped bring together players, staff and supporters, to the extent that about 400 were at the club’s Moor Farm training ground to greet them on their return from Queens Park Rangers late on April 18.

Wayne Rooney has been a hero for Derby fans amid their problems off the pitch this season

Not bad for a club who have been in administration since September, and who had dropped into League One hours earlier.

Rooney could have jacked it in several times since he became permanent manager in January 2021, and few would have blamed him. But he did not.

He stuck at it when Derby were docked 12 points for going into administration, and when they lost a further nine for historical financial breaches. He stayed put when deadlines were missed, when players were sold and even when he was offered the chance to be interviewed for the Everton job.

Rooney has already said he would like to rebuild Derby in League One yet he cannot be certain there will be a club to revive.

His Rams side were relegated to League One following a 1-0 defeat away at QPR on Monday

But Rooney has been the shining light of an otherwise gloomy season for the club

American businessman Chris Kirchner is currently in talks to become the club’s new owner and has been endorsed by Rooney, but there is still a long way to go until the long-term future is secure. It remains unclear whether Kirchner’s offer is sufficient to avoid a further 15-point penalty which is likely to be imposed in time for the start of next season. 

Sportsmail understands Kirchner’s team have explored whether it would be possible to accept the deduction this season, but there is little chance this would be permitted by the EFL.

Where does this leave Rooney? His stock is unquestionably high. The 36-year-old has made no secret of his desire to manage in the Premier League, with a return to Manchester United one day thought to be top of his list.

He has provided a human touch at Derby, such as when he thanked the fans for their support when they greeted the team back at their training ground after Monday’s defeat at QPR

At Derby, he has introduced an attractive playing style, brought through players from the from the club’s academy and united a dressing room where the age of the players ranges from 37-year-old Curtis Davies to 18-year-old Malcolm Ebiowei. He has been impressive when speaking in public, has largely kept his calm on the touchline and has become a hero for supporters who fear their club is about to disappear.

Rooney has played a blinder, and he deserves the opportunity to show his skills in a fair fight, instead of being hobbled by points deductions, transfer embargoes, player sales and countless other factors that have made his job so tricky this season.

That chance will surely come. Derby fans hope fervently that it will be with them.

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