More than a year has passed since Wayne Rooney’s coaching career. Even though he is younger than his former attacking partner Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney is already working at Derby as a head coach. At the same time, the experience there is more than just the first experience of a legendary player in a new status. Rooney is close to a historic success at the start of his coaching career.
In 2019, Wayne signed a contract with Derby as both a player and a playing coach. However, the club needed him much more on the field for a long time. In the first game for the new team, he gave an assist, played 90 minutes in the vast majority of matches and immediately became captain.
Mel Morris is a Derby native a prominent businessman. And he may well claim to be Britain’s worst football boss of recent years. He acquired Derby in 2014, when this team had just lost to Queens Park Rangers in the playoff final — and then with an extensive playing advantage. So we had to part when the question was not a place in the Championship, but the club’s very existence.
Rooney became the ninth person appointed to the post of head coach of Derby in seven years under Morris. Derby’s transfer record, which was held at the time of Morris’ club acquisition, was broken seven times. And this is although the Championship has its own, rigorous financial fair play. “Derby” at first relied on trainers-downed pilots: so Nigel Pearson and twice Steve McLaren stopped by the Championship club. Then this strategy was replaced by a bet on young and promising coaches: Frank Lampard and Philippe Koku were before Rooney.
Morris first spent money on the players the coaches needed and then on compensation for their dismissal. Perhaps the situation could have been saved if Derby had not lost the playoff final with Lampard three years ago, but very dark times came for the team after that. At the beginning of last season, Coca was fired when Derby won only one round out of the starting eleven and occupied last place.
During this season, Derby received a set of sanctions that seemed equivalent to exile to the third division. Firstly, all the players who were at least interesting in someone left the club in the summer. Of the 11 players who played the last season, five went – even 36-year-old goalkeeper David Marshall (at Queens Park Rangers). So at a certain point, there were only nine players left in the squad – some went to the third division, the future of Derby seemed so gloomy.
The trump card of the “Derby” was the youth. Now the club can go through infinitely tricky times, but historically it is a legendary team that has twice become a champion. In 2019, it was Derby that won the England U19 Championship. In the final, they played with Arsenal, for which Bukayo Saka made a double, but even this did not save the capital’s team from defeat — 2:5.
Successful work in the “Derby” was the reason for the interest in the Rooney of the Premier League clubs. Newcastle and Everton have invited him to talks during this season, but he refused. The poor, dysfunctional club of the Championship Rooney never exchanged for very ambitious teams of the Premier League. And all because the Derby project has become more than just a job for Rooney.
“I am committed to this club. I grew up in the Liverpool City Council area, and I know how hard life can be. What kind of person would I be if I left the club and was lying on the beach now?” he says in an interview. Now Rooney buys the necessary equipment for the Derby for his own money (for example, a drone for video surveillance). For the legend of English football, it is not a problem to spend the night in the office, preparing for the next opponent.
At the same time, Rooney does not hide his severity: “At the very beginning, a couple of players were my teammates when I was playing. They weren’t ready for this. I knew they would be a problem in the locker room. After three weeks, both left.” For the remaining players, Rooney is a mountain. Derby player Curtis Davis said: “After all the news, he came up to us and said: “I will stand up for you, I will take all the criticism on myself.” Moreover, Rooney is looking for contact with the audience: he gave fans his phone number at the beginning of the season to always be in touch with them.
Now in the city, he is nicknamed the guardian angel. He uses universal love to motivate the team: after one of the fans sent him poems of his composition, Rooney read them for the team before the game. And in one of the last matches, a little fan ran out onto the Derby field. Strikers who want attention from football players are a familiar story, but the boy ran up to the coach this time. It seems that Rooney was so disliked even at Old Trafford.
Now “Derby” is in the 23rd place in the table and lags behind the saving line by only six points — 8 rounds before the end. If it were not for these “-21”, the team would be in eighteenth place with a large margin from the relegation zone. We are lucky that Reading is experiencing big problems this season, which included a point penalty, but this Derby deserved at least a little luck.