Wayne Rooney said he is looking forward to meeting Derby County’s supporters for the first time when he attends tomorrow’s Sky Bet Championship fixture against Queens Park Rangers.
It was confirmed earlier this week that the former England and Manchester United legend will be at Pride Park Stadium for Derby’s clash with the R’s on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off).
As well as penning a playing contract with Derby from January 2020, Rooney will join the club as a coach and continue to develop his coaching credentials in preparation for a potential managerial career.
Rooney, who agreed to join the Rams from Major League Soccer side DC United back in August, has now begun training with Phillip Cocu’s side permanently to prepare being available from the start of January.
The 34-year-old will be introduced to the Derby supporters 10 minutes ahead of kick-off on Saturday afternoon and he is excited about the prospect of receiving a warm welcome from the Rams’ faithful.
Speaking to RamsTV, Rooney said: “I’m really looking forward to the weekend and seeing the supporters.
“I’ve watched most of the games since I agreed to join and it will be nice to get to Pride Park and meet everyone, especially as I’ve heard the fans singing my name when I’ve watched the matches.
“I think for the fans it will be good also. It’s been a long time since it was announced that I had joined the club.”
He added: “Hopefully I can give the players and the fans a lift and we can push on, but it will be exciting for me also. It is exciting to join a new club and meet the fans for the first time.”
Rooney began his training programme with the squad earlier this week to get his eagerly awaited arrival at the club underway in earnest.
As well as training with Cocu’s players on a daily basis, he also has his own tailored fitness programme to follow ahead of being registered as a player at the start of the new year.
The five-time Premier League winner concedes that while he’s looking forward to the next challenge of his illustrious career, he is also going to have to deal with the frustration of not being able to be involved in a game situation for a little while longer.
“It’s nice to be in officially and it was well-documented that I was in for a couple of weeks before I had a little break,” he said.
“I’m now in full-time every day and preparing to be ready to play from 2nd January. My season at DC United finished not so long ago so what I will be doing won’t be as tough as a full pre-season and, of course, I’ll be involved in the football training with the team.
“At the end of certain sessions, when the lads aren’t doing a long one for example, I will keep myself topped up and make sure I’m ready to come straight in from the Barnsley game.
“It’s great to be back in and amongst the lads but I think the frustrating part during December will be training during the week but not being able to play come the weekend.”
Rooney, who scored 53 times in 120 appearances for England between 2003 and 2018, added: “I’ve been around the lads for a couple of weeks, before I went away on holiday, and I think it was important to come in and get to know the players a bit more as well.
“Over the next month as well I will be able to get to know them more on a day-to-day basis.”
Rooney has enjoyed the vast majority of his career to date in the Premier League.
After a brief taste of Major League Soccer at DC United, he’s relishing the prospect of testing himself in the Championship.
As a keen watcher of English football’s second tier over the years, he’s well aware of the challenges he will face.
The former England captain explained: “It’s obviously a challenge to come back to English football with a new club and in a new league.
“I’ve not played in the Championship before, but I have watched it over my whole career and I know what to expect in that aspect.
“It’s great to be back in the dressing room and amongst the lads and the banter.”
Watching from afar, Rooney has paid close attention to Derby’s fortunes during the 2019/20 campaign so far.
Echoing the comments of Cocu, he believes the Rams must seek to find some consistency as they look to climb the Championship table and mount a challenge towards the top six in the second half of the campaign.
He said: “I think the season has been a mixed bag so far to be honest.
“The form at home has been great, but not so away from home.
“If we can try to be a bit more consistent in terms of getting results I feel, if we can win two or three games on the bounce, it will put us in a good position and closer to the play-off spots.”