Fans of Derby County would have felt that Wayne Rooney’s appointment could spark a Championship revival. Supporters hoped his announcement as manager would be similar to when Frank Lampard was handed the reigns and nearly took them back into the Premier League. However, it hasn’t worked out that way, and Wayne Rooney‘s Derby County are fighting for their Championship status.
Wayne Rooney’s Derby County Fighting for Championship Survival
Honeymoon Period Over for Wayne Rooney at Derby County in Championship
After an initially superb start, it’s proven to be a short honeymoon period for the team and the manager.
The Rams have continued to sink and struggle, despite having some decent players in their squad and despite an initial improvement under new management.
In fact, no team in the second tier has had a worse record over the last fifteen games. If the Championship table was decided purely on the last fifteen fixtures, the Rams would be rock bottom of the league, having won only two of those games.
They could still sink as low as 24th in the table (although 23rd is more realistic bar a minor miracle on behalf of Wycombe Wanderers due to the goal difference). So, what now for Derby County?
Next Two Championship Games for Derby County are Important
First and foremost, they have to win their next two games. The first is a tricky fixture against Swansea City, who may have taken their foot slightly off the gas with play-off football confirmed, although they’ll likely want to finish higher to try and have a better fixture in the competition.
Then, it’s a crunch clash against Sheffield Wednesday. The loser of that one could very well end up being demoted to League One – so there’s arguably no more important game for both sides all season.
Wednesday have been a mixed bag recently, so you can’t be sure as to which side you’ll come up against – the one deserving of a place in the second tier or the one doomed to fight in League One next season.
If they can hold their nerve and take four points in those two games, it may just be enough to keep them afloat – but dependent on Rotherham United and their game in hand, even that might not be enough.
Prospect of League One Relegation
Relegation to League One would throw up a multitude of questions for the Rams. Do they stick or twist with Wayne Rooney at the helm? Do they trust in what he is trying to implement and give him time or do they turn to a manager more capable and experienced of dragging a team out of the third tier?
League One can be a soul-destroying league, a league in which even the best teams remain trapped there for seasons to come. Just look at Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Portsmouth for example. All relegated and all stuck there for well over two seasons each now. It’s therefore vital that Derby do whatever they can to stay up.
If they can stay up, a lot of work will need to be done over the summer. The Rams look a shadow of their former selves and need to clear out the trash and bring in more players who look like they want to be there. They have a squad of 28 and, of that group, only half have played over 15 games over the course of the campaign. This is partly due to injury and youth but if there are too many passengers, then some need to go.
Finding a Consistent Goal Threat is a Must
They also need to find more of a goal threat. Colin Kazim-Richards is the unlikely top scorer and top contributor since joining with ten goal contributions in total, but he’s 34 and was a gamble to start with.
The next best for them is the injured Lee Gregory and even he is only on loan at Pride Park. They need to find someone capable of providing goals on a regular basis if they want to have any chance of stepping up a gear in the next campaign.
If you can’t score, you won’t win games and that’s exactly what Derby want to be doing.
Hold Onto the Lead When You Have It
Derby also need to work on holding onto a lead. They’ve been drawing at half-time in ten games so far this season before going on to lose them – the third-highest rate in the league. They’ve also been winning at half-time on four occasions, only to then only come away with a point on four occasions – the third highest in the league.
Getting themselves into a decent position is easy enough it seems, but it’s holding onto the result for the remaining 45 minutes that seems to be the issue. They need to solidify themselves when they’re in front or avoid defeat entirely.
Fixing these issues is easier said than done though. It will mean a summer of clear outs, of smart signings and being careful rather than the excess of other years, especially if they do find themselves relegated.
If they can find the answers to these problems – and Rooney can fix them – then Derby could be a force to be reckoned with in the Championship again.