Derby County boss Wayne Rooney has admitted there is a ‘big possibility’ his side will be plying in their trade in League One next season, as he gave his reaction to the Rams’ nine-point deduction to the club’s media team.
The Championship side’s failure to comply with the EFL’s Profitability and Sustainability rules led to this punishment, taking their deducted points total to a whopping 21 after their entrance into administration back in September.
Working their way back to a positive points tally in the second tier after receiving their initial docking of 12 just under two months able, this latest setback has dragged the East Midlands outfit back to -3 and leaves them in real danger of dropping down to the third tier next term.
Quiz: Have Derby County ever won an away game at each of these 20 stadiums?
Currently sitting 18 points adrift of safety with 29 games to go and a severe lack of squad depth, something that’s unlikely to be fully addressed with the further transfer restrictions they face in January, their immediate future looks bleak and leaves them with a mountain to climb in their quest for a miraculous survival.
Going winless in their last seven and failing to win a league game since September, this task has been made even harder despite the brave efforts of their first-team squad, being punished for events that were out of their control.
Another man that has unfairly suffered is manager Rooney, who believes survival is still a possibility with the majority of the season still left to be played despite conceding the Rams would have to be realistic about their current situation.
He said: “Anything is possible.
“There is a chance (of survival); but we also have to be realistic.
“There is a big possibility that we will go into League One, we know that, and the good thing is that there should be no more and that is it.
“I have to plan now for the future of this club – how we move forward, how we progress, whether that be in the Championship or League One – and in order to do that then it’s vital that we get the new owners in as soon as possible.
“That is the only way in terms of how I can plan moving forward. If that rumbles on and takes longer than we expect then it makes it impossible for me to put things in place.”
Derby may have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five matches after an exceptional start to the season defensively, something that was key in guiding them to a mid-table spot before their points deductions.
But it’s their attack that is too weak to lead the club to survival this season, with Colin Kazim-Richards only just getting back to full fitness, a forward in Sam Baldock who isn’t suited to playing up front on his own and youngster Jack Stretton as their three main options as centre-forwards
Although they have players across the pitch that can contribute goals, they need a main goalscorer in their current situation and at this stage, they don’t have a player who will score them 20 goals this season.
This makes the forward position one they desperately need to address in January, but action then is likely to be too late for survival.
This is an issue they would have fully addressed back in the summer if they had no restrictions on their back and an owner that could invest a considerable amount in the playing squad, after scoring just 36 times in the league last term.
Even with a squad full of depth, a 21-point deduction is hard to come from, let alone a threadbare Derby squad.