Before us is a team from the Championship, which Wayne Rooney coaches. In the past, it was managed by Philip Koku and Frank Lampard. The white T‑shirt has been tried on by Rooney himself, Mason Mount, Ashley Cole and Fikayo Timori. The Rams became champions of England twice. It’s a proud club, and it’s going through a crisis.
Look from the side, and it seems that everything is not so wrong. The standings are not so frustrating — 12th place, right in the middle. Two wins and four draws.
But dig a little deeper, and problems begin. Derby can be deprived of points for two reasons, and if the league management decides to take such a step, it will be almost impossible to avoid relegation.
What happened to the Derby? We are sorting it out.
The current “big Four” may consist of Manchester and London clubs, but at one time, in the seventies, Liverpool, Leeds United, Derby County and Nottingham Forest were in charge here.
The best coaches in the history of the Rams were the legendary Brian Clough and Dave Mackay, but after their departure, the team went down. She was relegated from the top division but returned thanks to Welsh striker Dean Saunders — another club legend.
For the first time, the Rams found themselves in the NPL in 1996. The players are different, but the strikers still have their Dean with the surname Sturridge and Paulo Wanchope. Heroes for a new generation. For six seasons, the team stayed at the top, twice ending up at the top of the table. Finally, we managed to return in 2007, and all English football fans remember that low season. Derby won just one match and took a record-low 11 points, having already been relegated in March.
After that, there were 13 seasons in the Championship. The Rams almost became champions many times, but they always missed their chance at the last moment. And each time, the solution was the same: spend more.
The playoffs at the end of the season brought a lot of pain to Derby fans.
The first one happened in 2014 when Derby took third place. But, first, Brighton was defeated, and in the final, there was a meeting with QPR, which was lost in extra time. Next season, the team could have tried again, if not for the result on the last day.
Every time the team conceded, its leadership was spent. After another setback, Tom Ince, Bradley Johnson and Andreas Weimann joined the team. Darren Bent and Scott Carson came in as free agents. The result is a fifth-place and defeat in the playoffs.
After that, Matej Vydra was bought from Watford, but even that didn’t help: in the 2016–17 season, Derby changed three coaches and finished the season in ninth place. Otter played out in the second season — thanks to him, the Rams made it to the playoffs with 21 goals, where they lost to Fulham.
After coach Gary Rowett was lured away by Stoke City, chairman Mel Morris had to prove that his club was not a small fry. Result: Frank Lampard’s invitation. A strong move.
Thanks to Frank’s connections with Chelsea, Mount and Tomori came to Derby, and Harry Wilson came from Liverpool. The team played brightly and beautifully, and the fans believed that they could say goodbye to the Championship.
Of course, it all came down to the playoffs, where the Rams faced Leeds. The match was won heroically with a score of 4:3, and even in the minority. According to many, it is the most incredible playoff in the history of British football. After that game, the players celebrated so fiercely that it took 2,800 pounds to drink alone.
But the celebration was premature: there was still the final against Aston Villa, who lost 2:1. Then, Lampard left for Chelsea, and Derby went into free fall.
Timori and Mount returned to Chelsea, and Philip Koku from PSV became the coach. He called Krystyan Belik from Arsenal to the team, which cost about 10 million pounds.
The first match was won, but the positives ended there. Under the leadership of the new coach, the Rams played seven matches without a single victory. At the same time, the team captain was seriously injured after he got into a car accident with several teammates. It was not without alcohol. Lawrence and Bennett — the club’s players — were arrested after escaping from the accident scene (where they returned). Six weeks of their salary was taken away from them, but they returned to the team in the end. And if Bennett left quickly, then Lawrence not only stayed but also became the captain. The main culprit, Captain Richard Kio, spent a year in the infirmary and was kicked out of the club. After the subsequent trial, the player won compensation for 2.3 million pounds.
This saga overshadowed even the nondescript season of the “rams”, which occupied the 17th line at Christmas. Only the arrival of Wayne Rooney in the role of playing coach helped, and “Derby” rose to the tenth line.
What happened next?
The 2020–21 season started badly, with five games lost. Koku was fired, and Captain Rooney and coaches Shay Given, Liam Rosenior, and Justin Walker began working together even before the new coach was announced. Negotiations dragged on — the management had found a buyer for the club by that time. The deal was estimated at 60 million pounds but required league approval.
At that time, Rooney was appointed acting coach. The team returned to form with him, and on January 15, the ex-UNITED striker became a full-fledged coach. He finally hung up his boots on a nail and devoted himself to work, which for him was a matter of “honour”.
Derby was still negotiating with Derventio Holdings Group, and things were going uphill on the pitch. But as always, one event led to a fall: as soon as Belik was injured, the “rams” collapsed to the bottom. Having won only one match out of 14, Derby risked relegation on the last day of the season. In March, the purchase of the club failed. Instead, Morris announced a close partnership with No Limits Sports Limited.
On the last day of the season, Derby was ranked 21st, and only another heroic match saved the Rams from relegation. But, unfortunately, they were saved only one point, and the difference in goals scored and conceded.
It didn’t work out to be happy for a long time — the deal fell through. Again.
The 2021–22 season for Derby began with a fine of 100 thousand pounds for violating accounting rules. In addition, a transfer embargo was imposed on the club for violating several directions, and three points were removed for non-payment of salaries to players.
I had to rely only on free agents. And this is taking into account the salary limit! So it is not surprising that several players who did not agree to a salary cut left Derby. Even worse: in training, Rooney accidentally injured Jason Knight, who returned only in September.
As a result, the team was strengthened by Phil Jagielka, Richard Stearman, Sam Baldock and Ravel Morrison. Rooney tried to put something out of it and succeeded, for the most part. Nevertheless, 12th place is an expected result. This is because the main problems did not occur on the football field.
Rumours began to appear that due to violations of financial fair play rules, the club would be punished by depriving nine points. Soon, Derby introduced external management, which threatened him with a 12-point fine. Rooney and his players learned about this news from the news on TV. In a press release, the club referred to financial difficulties due to the pandemic.
Now the club has announced an urgent search for a new buyer.
A 12-point penalty is inevitable, and it can even rise to 21 points. It’s just going to kill the Derby.
While the club is appealing, Rooney is trying to calm his subordinates:
“I talked to the guys and made them understand that it is necessary to maintain professionalism. We are in a difficult situation. We will be deprived of points, but we can only work. Derby is a big club, and we need to play well to attract investors. My job is to give the club back a sense of pride.”
“I think many club employees will be out of work, but they still have to pay the mortgage. It makes my heart bleed.”
If the Derby survives, it will be a real achievement. One thing is for sure: Wayne Rooney is ready to fight.