Derby County are skating on severely thin ice as their Championship status continues to hang in the balance.
A fourth defeat on the spin at the hands of Preston North End last night leaves Wayne Rooney’s side looking over their shoulder, courtesy of goals from Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson at Deepdale.
Derby remain 21st in the Championship, but Rotherham United require only four points from their three games in hand to leapfrog the Rams and drag them into the bottom three.
To put it bluntly, Derby County’s hopes of staying in the Championship are no longer in their hands, as Rooney emphasised rather worryingly last night.
You can call yourself a true Derby County fan if you get 80% or more correct on this Rams quiz
Appointing Rooney as Phillip Cocu’s successor was always in the pipeline when the former Manchester United and England star signed as a player with a view to becoming a coach last season.
But even he may not have envisaged that in his first season as a manager, Derby would be staring relegation down to League One right in the face. It may be a long-term project with Rooney at the helm, but the club simply cannot afford to face this downfall in the short-term.
With new ownership potentially on the horizon in Erik Alonso, pending EFL approval, the Spaniard may well consider a change in the dugout if relegation does materialise. Here, we take a look at three managerial alternatives who he could consider…
This may be a coup given where Neil has been at previously, but Derby would undoubtedly be one of the biggest clubs in League One, if not the biggest, and the project of potentially taking them back up to the Championship would be an exciting one.
Neil is an established manager at Championship level, leading Norwich City to promotion via the play-offs in 2015.
He then moved to Preston North End after being sacked by Canaries, working wonders under a shoestring budget and poaching several exciting players from leagues below.
The Scotsman led North End to the fringes of the play-offs on a couple of occasions, but was unable to get over the line as they came up short.
It would be a coup to lure him to Pride Park.
Harris is another manager who has worked well under a small budget and exceeded expectations in the Championship before, particularly at Millwall.
He guided the Lions to promotion from League One via the play-offs in 2016/17, and the following season, he took them to within three points off the play-offs in their first season back in the Championship.
Harris also took charge of Cardiff midway through last season and led them to a play-off semi-final, where they were defeated by eventual winners.
He is only 43 and you feel that he has a big future in management, and his man-management skills were beneficial for Millwall as they enjoyed successful periods with him.
This may be seen as a bit of a risky appointment, but if the club are looking to change direction and get off to a fresh start, Evatt could be the ideal manager.
Evatt, of course, knows Derby County well having come through the ranks at Pride Park, playing for the Rams between 1999 and 2003.
Since becoming a manager, the 39-year-old has led Barrow to the National League title in 2019/20, and is on course to guide Bolton Wanderers to promotion from League Two this season after taking the reins in the summer.
He knows how to build a winning mentality within the dressing room, and that relentless to win games could be vital for Derby if they went down.