Wayne Rooney in numbers
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Last week was not the best for Wayne Rooney – Harry Kane moved to within touching distance of his England goalscoring record then his Derby County side were hit with another points deduction. Having surrendered 21 in all this season for the club’s spending excesses under the reckless stewardship of Mel Morris, they require a footballing miracle to stay in the Championship. They are under a transfer embargo, have no owner and sit at the foot of the table.
England’s leading goalscorer – for the moment – could be forgiven for wondering what on earth he has got himself into at Pride Park.
He doesn’t need all this, surely? Yet maybe he does.
With the scrapes he has got himself into and the demons he has fought, you get the impression Rooney needs management to work out for him.
He needs a purpose in life and Derby, in their current state, are certainly providing it.
When Rooney is pressed on why he chooses to stay at the wheel with the accelerator jammed to the floor and Derby seemingly plunging over the cliff his answer takes in loyalty, a desire to fight when in a corner and to repay the club for giving him his first chance in management.
All the above may be true but he also finds himself in a rare and priceless position for a manager.
Expectations are the great enemy of any coach and in the situation he finds himself in there are none whatsoever on Rooney.
The circumstances mean no blame can be attached to Rooney if Derby go down. Relegation is the logical consequence of their swingeing punishment.
Should Derby make a prolonged fight of it before succumbing to the inevitable Rooney will be praised for giving it a respectable go under impossible privation.
But if Derby somehow pull it off and complete the great escape he will be hailed as a managerial genius.
This could be the making of him as a manager.
Of course such an outcome is unlikely. He cannot sign the players he might want because of the embargo but the Derby squad he has aren’t basket cases.
You could count on one hand the teams in the Championship that have lost fewer matches. If Derby could only turn some more of their avalanche of draws into wins and get a run going there is still time for them to apply some pressure on the teams above them.
Mission impossible is actually only mission highly improbable.
Sunday’s win over Bournemouth showed Derby are not willing simply to accept their fate. That was a start. Next up are leaders Fulham tonight.
Despite the allure of the big-name former player to starry-eyed chairmen few end up being particularly successful.
Perhaps part of the problem is that they tend to be parachuted in above their level of experience without a sufficiently broad grounding in the more testing aspects of the job. That will certainly not be the case with Rooney.
Exacting as the current challenge may be, he will be learning a lot more about the sharp end of the business than, say, Steven Gerrard did chasing trophies in his first job at Rangers.
Whichever way it works out, Rooney is undertaking a crash course in crisis management the likes of which few former players of his standing will experience.
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