Wayne Rooney’s late heroics secured an important victory for Derby County in their last game ahead of the October international break and the Rams’ captain believes they can propel themselves up the Sky Bet Championship table in the weeks ahead.
After a tough start to the 2020/21 campaign, tasting defeat in their opening three matches, the Rams got their first points on the board in a 1-0 win against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Rooney’s piece of magic direct from a free-kick late on secured three points for Phillip Cocu's side, just as it looked like they would have to settle for a draw.
The October international break immediately followed the victory and has given Derby's players time to get crucial rest and recovery ahead of seven games in four weeks, which includes twp teams relegated from the Premier League last season and local rivals Nottingham Forest.
“We trained Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then had four days off,” Rooney explained to Sky Sports ahead of Friday's game about how Phillip Cocu's side handled the two-week break without a match.
“We have a lot of games coming up now before the next international break I am sure the manager felt it was important to give the players time to switch off and give the body a rest, certainly for the lads not on international duty. We've done that and we have to make sure we are ready for the next three or four weeks coming up."
He added: “The win at Noiwich brought some confidence back into the team which we needed. We know the start with the first three games wasn’t good enough from us so we had to regroup to try and get that first win or first point on the board.
“We did that against Norwich. Now with these fixtures coming up, with the right results, then those first three games can be forgotten about and we canput ourselves back in a good position.”
Rooney shifted higher up the pitch against the Canaries, moving from the midfield position we have become accustomed to him playing in a Rams shirt, to the striker's position.
England and Manchester United's record goalscorer says he is happy playing anywhere that Cocu selects him to help the team.
He said: “I know the qualities which I can bring to the team from there. I know I am not going to be running the channels for 90 minutes at my age and with the games I have played!
“I know that won’t be my role to play, but I know I can get hold of the ball and play us in and anything around the box I can create chances and get shots off.”
First up for the Rams following the break is Watford under the Pride Park floodlights on Friday night.
The Hornets have had a steady start to their first season back in the Championship after their relegation from the Premier League last season with two wins, a draw and a defeat.
Like Derby, goals have been hard to come by with just two in their opening four fixtures, but their defence has been particularly strong, conceding just one goal.
Rooney is predicting another difficult challenge.
“Watford will be a different task to what Norwich was; they will be a little bit more physical and test us in different ways,” the 34-year-old said.
“Norwich like to keep the ball and try and pass through the lines a lot. Watford maybe will try and keep the ball also but be a little bit more direct and getting crosses into the box and try to unsettle the centre-backs a bit more.
“It will certainly be a tough game for us, but we can go into it confident after our last result.”