Darren Wassall says he is ‘looking forward to the challenge’ after being named as Derby County’s Head Coach until the end of the season.
The 47-year-old, who has been overseeing the running of Derby’s Academy since 2009, stepped up to take charge of the first-team following the departure of Paul Clement on Monday evening.
Wassall, a former Derby player in the 1990s, will take charge of his first Rams game this weekend when MK Dons head to the iPro Stadium in the Sky Bet Championship.
He says he feels ‘privileged’ to have been offered the chance to lead Derby in the final 16 games of the campaign.
Ahead of tomorrow’s game, he has urged the club’s supporters to ‘get behind the team and help them regain their confidence’ against Karl Robinson’s side.
He told Rams Player HD: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
“Obviously there are 16 games to go and we will be taking every game as it comes. I’m just really looking forward to tomorrow now.
“It has been a fast moving-week after obviously being asked only on Monday night if I wanted to take over the team.
“I feel privileged to have been offered the challenge and it’s onwards and upwards from this point.
“It’s not just about me; it’s the players who are the most important. I want the whole of our supporters to get behind the team and help them regain their confidence and get back to winning ways.
“Everybody wants the same thing at this football club – for a successful team on the pitch and tomorrow we will all be rolling in the same direction to achieve that. It’s always a really great feeling playing at the iPro whether it’s a first team game, Under 21s game or Under 18s game.”
Discussing his managerial style, Wassall explained: “From the first session I have tried to manage in the way that I’ve managed over the last seven years here at the Academy. There’s only one way I know to react with the players and that’s to be as open and as honest as possible.
“I’m passionate to do well for them and for ourselves as a whole. We know what we’ve got to do and obviously everybody’s a little bit unsettled by what has happened, but going forward we’ve now got to draw a line in the sand and say there’s only 16 games to go and we’ve got to give it our best shot.”
Academy coaches Pat Lyons and Craig Short, another former Derby defender, have stepped up to the first-team set-up alongside Wassall, providing support alongside Kevin Phillips and Pascal Zuberbuhler.
Discussing the coaching team make-up, Wassall says it was important to have some familiar faces around him.
He said: “Myself and Pat Lyons have worked together now for 15 years so it’s a natural thing for me to take him with me.
“I need people who I have worked with previously and who I feel comfortable with.
“There is also Craig Short who is a former team mate and also room-mate. We go back a long way and he’s also familiar with this club’s history being once the player of the year with Derby.
“Craig also has had recent Championship experience with Blackburn so he knows this division really well.”
Wassall experienced a change in manager as a player many times during his playing career and says it is only natural for a ‘strange’ feeling to surround the squad for few days.
However, he has made it clear that the players have shown a professional attitude on the training pitch in preparation for tomorrow’s clash with MK Dons.
“I think it’s only natural for players to feel a bit strange when there is a change of Head Coach,” he said.
“As a player, you build up relationships with the coaches so for the first few days it can be a little unsettling. However, all the players know that they are being paid by the football club to play football.
“Our players who I have trained with over the past few days have been extremely professional and they all want to do well for the club so I don’t think there is any problem regarding the current situation that we’re in.”
Derby go into tomorrow’s game occupying fifth place in the table, but are without a win in their last seven league fixtures.
Wassall has stressed the importance of Derby returning to winning ways as soon as possible.
He believes that the squad that he has at his disposal is more than capable of returning to form sooner rather than later.
He said: “We’re in a very good position in the table with a third of the season still to go.
“We already know, and as me and my staff have seen over the last few days, we have a very talented group of players here – a really fantastic squad.
“We’ve already got a pretty good idea of our starting line-up tomorrow. That being said, I would comfortably pick any of the players we have trained with so far this week.
“We have to get back to winning ways. It proven that you can in this league – Brighton, Hull, Burnley and now Middlesbrough have all had or are going through sticky patches. We know that a bad spell was inevitably going to happen but we’ve had our bit so now is about returning to winning ways on Saturday.
“We know that we’re capable, we just need to regain a bit of confidence and a little bit of luck in front of goal but the players all know and have proven just how good they are – fifth in the league and five points off top is not a bad position to be in at this stage of the season.”
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