Rooney goes back to basics in Rams rescue mission - Interview
Friday, 22nd Jan 2021 10:36 by Clive Whittingham
Wayne Rooney has all on rescuing a Derby team that struggles to score and tends to concede damaging late goals from a shock Championship relegation in his first managerial job - we spoke to James Hare from the 11 Points blog.
What has gone wrong for Derby this season on the pitch?
Where do I start… under Cocu at the start of the season it was the worst football I’ve seen us play for near enough a decade. A complete inability to create chances close to goal and to get players inside the area. It has picked up recently under Rooney (barring the atrocious defeat to Rotherham last time out), who has aimed to revert back to the basics before implementing anything too complicated.
Derby’s league results so far…
What’s happened to the promising kids who seemed to be cutting through at the end of last season?
It’s a mixed bag for the younger lads this season. Whilst Max Bird was arguably the pick of the bunch last season, he lost his place in midfield this season and has become a frequent name on the bench, but I think his time will come again soon. Jason Knight has been the main attraction this season, and is reportedly drawing interest from the Premier League. His energy is incredible and I’m convinced he’s the fittest player in the league, an incredible presser with good technical ability and general understanding – it’s a pleasure to have him play for your team. Buchanan at left back has had a good ‘breakthrough season’, and whilst he’s frequently rotated with Forsyth, he’s certainly one to watch and has already made his debut for the England U21’s. Finally, Louie Sibley has struggled to nail down his place in the side, but I don’t think there’s much doubting the talent he has, and I think most fans would rather him start than Waghorn.
What’s the current situation off the pitch, a suspiciously drawn out takeover and now even talk of administration?
That’s a good question and I wish I could tell you the answer. The Bin Zayed Group’s takeover has reportedly been imminent since November, and whilst nobody knows exactly what’s happening, the cash flow issues at the club are presumably halting progress. The club remains under a transfer embargo, and players haven’t been paid. The threat of administration could be a real one if a solution isn’t found soon, and I think the majority of fans now expect the takeover with this particular group to fall through – we’ll see.
Rooney seemed to engineer himself into the managerial role fairly successfully, team had obviously stopped playing for Cocu by the time we played you earlier this season. Now he’s got it, how do you feel about the appointment and how has he done so far?
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised by the job Wazza’s done so far, despite our current league position. There was a fear that we were diving into a managerial vanity project when the club was in a perilous position, but the performances have undoubtedly improved and everyone seems to be behind him now. As already mentioned, he reverted back to the basics. Bringing Kazim-Richards into the side has given us a focal point up top, and is somebody who can hold the ball up and create. Our defensive record has much improved, and despite a mixed bag of results, it feels good to have the managerial situation resolved, at least. There’s no doubt that he’s been thrown right in at the deep end.
You seem to let players I quite like – Marriott now Holmes – leave without adequate replacement. What January business has been done, and is still to come?
The club’s cash flow problems have made it necessary to flog some of our players. Summer signing Mike te Wierik has returned to Groningen after only a handful of league appearances. Holmes and Marriott are two great players on their day but do struggle to find consistency. It’s a mix of getting players off the wage bill, and also getting a fee where possible (Holmes, for example, is out of contract in the summer). In terms of incomings, it’s hard to see any happening whilst we’re under embargo. That situation would have to be resolved ASAP, which seems unlikely right now, or we may have to look in the free agent market.
Summer Ins >>> Kamil Jozwiak, 22, LW, Lech Poznan, £3.8m >>> Nathan Byrne, 28, RB, Wigan, Undisclosed >>> Mike te Wierik, 28, CB, Groningen, Free >>> David Marshall, 35, GK, Wigan, Free >>> Emmanuel Idem, 21, GK, Canvey Island, Free >>> Jordan Ibe, 24, RW, Bournemouth, Free >>> Colin Kazim-Richards, 34, CF, Unattached, Free >>> Matt Clarke, 23, CB. Brighton, Loan
Summer Outs >>> Max Lowe, 23, LB, Sheff Utd, £10m* >>> Jayden Bogle, 20, RB, Sheff Utd, £10m* Mason Bennett, 24, AM, Millwall, Undisclosed >>> Chris Martin, 31, CF, Bristol City, Free Scott Malone, 29, LB, Millwall, Loan >>> Jonathan Mitchell, 25, GK, Northampton, Loan >>> Florian Jozefzoon, 29, RW, Rotherham, Loan >>> Henrich Ravas, 23, GK, Hartlepool, Loan >>> Jack Marriott, 29, CF, Sheff Wed, Loan >>> Ikechi Anya, 32, LM, Released >>> Tom Huddleston, 33, DM, Released
Winter Ins >>> N/A
Winter Outs >>> Mike te Wierik, 28, CB, Groningen, Undisclosed >>> Wayne Rooney, 35, CF, Retired
Where is the team strong and where is it weak?
Since Rooney took over as interim manager, we’ve conceded five goals in ten games, so we’ve been fairly solid defensively, but as you found out earlier this season we do have a tendency to throw away results late on. We’ve thrown a total of ten points away in the last 15 minutes of games, for example. Our best player is easily Krystian Bielik in midfield, who is a man mountain of a defensive midfielder and is a gem on the ball, too. Our issue, largely, has been scoring goals – 14 goals in 23 games this season says it all, and that figure was evenly recently inflated by our 0-4 away at Birmingham, which we followed up with two consecutive 1-0 losses to Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham.
Almost incredible I’ve got to ask this, but do you think you’ll stay up?
I really hope I don’t regret saying this, but I think we will. That could just be driven by blind optimism, but with Rooney in charge, and the quality that we do have in the squad in areas, I think we’re too good to go down. But you’re only as good as your league position, and there’s no doubting that we’re in a relegation battle. Fingers crossed, anyway.
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Letters from Wiltshire #37 by wessex_exile
On Tuesday night, long-suffering U’s fans, and after such a long wait, finally saw something truly remarkable. Yes, on that fog-bound night we witnessed not one but two miracles – Trevor Kettle making two catastrophically poor game-changing decisions, listening to arguments against those decisions, admitting he had been wrong, and reversing them. Oh my days, as I live and breathe, if I’m ever blessed with grandchildren in years to come, will they believe doddery old me when I tell them what happened that night? Oh, and the U’s finally threw the monkey off their back and won a game…
Letters from Wiltshire #36 by wessex_exile
So, Wayne Brown isn’t yet the Messiah it would seem, but nor necessarily is he a very naughty boy either. In a tricky fixture at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday evening, what I saw started as encouraging – the U’s out of the blocks fast, showing pace, urgency, passion even – but sadly lacking in actual quality on the ball. By comparison, FGR had plenty of that, and very quickly gained total dominance across all areas of the pitch, and sliced through us for two goals in quick succession with alarming ease. It probably would have been more of the same in the second half, but for the red card. It looked fair enough at the time, but following an appeal it has now been rescinded. However, even with just ten men and happily sacrificing possession, we still had nothing to open them up, and still conceded a third from the simplest of free kicks. Worrying signs for Wayne, and lots of work to do, so let’s see how things may have improved tonight…
Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
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