Derby County will have been hoping to head into the March international break with real momentum and a couple of promising results under their belt.
The Rams have endured a difficult Championship campaign, though things did look to be on the up towards the start of Wayne Rooney’s tenure.
But Derby have embarked on a disappointing run of form of late. The Rams are winless in their last seven games, and head into the final two months of the season with their Championship status still up in the air.
Derby currently sit 19th in the league table, only five points clear of the relegation zone with Coventry and Rotherham having games in hand – the latter with four in total.
Wherever Derby do end up finishing this season, this year will have been a learning curve for Wayne Rooney, as he takes his first steps into management after a remarkable playing career.
He’s a confident figure who won’t ever shy away from telling the truth, but are there some regrets he may have since taking the job? Here, we take a look.
Wayne Rooney played under arguably the greatest manager of all-time, Sir Alex Ferguson, for the best part of nine years, and has gone on record in saying that the Scotsman’s man-management skills are the best he’s seen in the game.
Rooney will have taken lessons off a number of his former managers as he prepares for life in the dugout himself, and he hasn’t been shy in voicing his opinions since taking the reins at Pride Park.
At the weekend, the manager came out and publicly blasted Martyn Waghorn for his unacceptable behaviour in training, leading to the striker’s omission from the matchday squad in the defeat to Stoke.
It was a press conference which certainly got a lot of Derby fans talking. We don’t often see managers come out and rip into their players, especially for their attitude.
Waghorn is likely to be a key figure in the dressing room, too, and with his contract running down at Pride Park, you have to wonder how he felt about his manager’s comments, and subsequently, how they may affect squad morale.
Of course, player criticism, like it did under Ferguson at Old Trafford, can sometimes work. Rooney recently came out and demanded more from young midfielder Louie Sibley. Lo and behold, he scored a fabulous equalising goal against Brentford soon after.
But in the long run, this could have its drawbacks.
In fairness to Rooney, not much else could have been done in January. The ownership of the club was, and still is up in the air, leaving it difficult for players to come in, especially with wages not being paid.
But you have to wonder whether Rooney could have done more before then.
It’s hard to ignore Colin Kazim-Richards’ impact since he joined Derby in the summer. The striker has been a revelation at Pride Park, and is their leading goalscorer with seven goals.
Five players were brought in on a hectic transfer deadline day, with Lee Gregory coming in to support Kazim-Richards. He’s since scored two goals in 10 games, and has been unable to lift the goalscoring burden off Kazim-Richards’ shoulders.
Derby’s lack of attacking firepower is a concern, and it could prove to be the difference between having a tricky end to the season and having a comfortable one.
Chopping and changing
This season is like no other. The schedule is hectic, and more often than not, three games are played in the space of seven days.
A manager has to rotate his squad, then, but there also has to be a bit of a balance. Too many changes can disrupt team cohesion, as Derby have learnt.
Rooney hasn’t been shy when it has come to making changes to his side. Five were made against Watford, five were made against Barnsley, and seven were made against Wycombe back in November.
None of those fixtures culminated in wins, and in recent weeks, the manager has been unable to name a team and stick with it.
This is something likely to play on his mind when the summer arrives.