Derby County have suffered three defeats in their last five fixtures, with Wayne Rooney needing to address results before his side slip into any trouble at the wrong end of the Championship table.
Rooney has shown he’s got the makings of a decent manager already, leading Derby out of initial trouble and to a place where they could start looking up the division. However, he needs a clean slate to start with in 2021/22, in the Championship and with a takeover saga a thing of the past.
Then, we can judge Rooney the coach after a stellar playing career.
Part of that will be his judgement in the transfer window. We saw flutter of arrivals towards the end of January, but that was amid takeover uncertainty and in a notoriously difficult period to land good value players.
The summer should present fresh opportunities and, all being well, come at a time when the uncertainty of Derby’s proposed takeover is long gone.
Football League World understand that Derby are going to be amongst a host of clubs interested in signing Liam Delap from Manchester City. The Premier League leaders are weighing up a loan for the young striker, but will pick a club carefully in a bid to ensure his development accelerates rather than hits the breaks.
Delap, 18, has three senior appearances under his belt with City, scoring his first goal for the club in the League Cup victory over Bournemouth back on September 24th – a Premier League debut would come days later against Leicester City.
His form in the Premier League 2 is remarkable; 19 goals in 14 appearances, alongside a couple of assists. The striker has a lot of potential and is at a stage of his career where he needs to start thinking about what comes next for him at the Etihad.
Moving out on loan to work with Rooney would be no bad thing. The current Derby boss broke onto the scene at a young age with Everton, became England and Manchester United’s record goalscorer and was one of this generation’s best. He’s a rookie in terms of management, but could put Delap on the right path.
Yet, a Derby move for City’s prolific young striker comes with risk: he’s raw and pinning all hopes in the Championship on his shoulders wouldn’t be fair.
Derby aren’t flush with options in attack right now. Colin Kazim-Richards has been something of a revelation, but if the club have ambitions to challenge under Rooney, they need a more reliable source of goals in attack.
Delap’s arrival would also come, presumably, after a promise of regular football. Again, that’s giving a lot of responsibility to a teenage striker.
However, where there is risk, there is reward.
Breaking into Pep Guardiola’s current side is no easy task, but Delap has had the faith of the City manager to get his chance this season. His remarkably good form in the under-23 set-up is too good to ignore, whilst his physical attributes convince you that he’s got the frame to stand up to the Championship.
Age is simply a number, as Erling Haaland continues to prove week after week in the Bundesliga and then the Champions League.
Chipping into City’s set-up has a history of success too: Jack Harrison remains on loan at Leeds United for a third consecutive season, whilst Tosin Adarabioyo developed at Blackburn Rovers and is now excelling with Fulham.
Delap is a different calibre when it comes to City’s young talent and Rooney will be desperate to get his teeth into him.
The young City striker has his career ahead of him and the guidance of Rooney could be the making of him. It could too be the making of Rooney the coach, as he looks to build something at Pride Park.