The final four games of the Championship season are going to be massive for Derby County and Wayne Rooney.
The Rams sit one place and four points above the relegation zone but their cushion looks significantly more fragile when you consider Rotherham United have two games in hand over them.
Though mathematically their future is out of their hands, Rooney will know that if his side can put together a winning run to finish the season they should be safe.
The former England and Manchester United captain took charge at Pride Park permanently in January and has certainly experienced the highs and lows of management since.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined two lessons that Rooney will have definitely learned during his time with Derby so far…
Just how tough the Championship really is
A lot is said about the difficulty of the Championship, with Pep Guardiola once labelling it as “probably the hardest second division in the world”.
Rooney’s first season in management will have drilled home just how tough the English second tier can be, however.
After his arrival in January 2020, the Rams finished the season with a flourish and at points even looked as though they might sneak into the play-offs.
Having spent much of his career in the Premier League, the former England skipper could’ve been forgiven for thinking that he’d cracked the Championship but the 2020/21 campaign has shown that wasn’t the case.
The competitive nature of the division, congested schedule, and injury problems are one thing but he’s also seen just how quickly a good run of form can turn into a slump – and how hard they can be to get out of.
That experience should help him evolve as a coach and benefit his side next term, whichever division they’re playing in.
You can call yourself a true Derby County fan if you get 80% or more correct on this Rams quiz
How difficult things can be for clubs without financial might
Rooney spent the majority of his career at United, one of the richest clubs in world football, and played alongside superstars as the Old Trafford outfit cherry-picked the best talent from around the world.
Being in charge at Pride Park will have shown him a different side of the game completely.
Whether it’s constant questions about off-field issues, players not being paid, transfer embargos, young talents being sold, and even reports over the threat of administration emerging, this season has shown Rooney how tough things can be for a club without financial might.
He’s made it clear that he thinks significant investment in the squad over the next 12 to 18 months is needed to help Derby achieve what he feels they can but he may well have to be smart to stretch whatever transfer budget he does get.