Wayne Rooney has made it clear that Derby County’s full focus is on Wednesday night’s trip to Middlesbrough.
Derby will make the journey to the Riverside Stadium in their latest Sky Bet Championship fixture (7pm kick-off).
As is the relentless nature of English football’s second tier, the Rams have games coming thick and fast between now and the festive period in a month’s time.
Derby have picked up one win from 12 matches at the start of the campaign and players and staff have fully accepted the side’s form hasn’t been good enough at this moment in time.
But with matches coming thick and fast, it presents an opportunity for the Rams to improve quickly and climb the table.
With back-to-back home games on the horizon, against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday and Coventry City next Tuesday, Rooney says Derby would be naive to look beyond the next fixture.
Rooney is part of a four-man coaching team, alongside Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker, leading the Rams at this moment in time following Phillip Cocu’s departure earlier this month.
They oversaw Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol City and while the Rams returned home from Ashton Gate pointless, there were positive signs to build on.
“It is great for us to have a game on Wednesday,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“The players have prepared well in training and the players who didn’t start the game on Saturday did a bit extra on Monday and they have been fantastic with the effort they put in.
“That is going to be key for us as well; the lads who don’t start the previous game have to make sure they are ready to come in.”
He added: “With three games coming up this week, of course it is an important time.
“But the next step is Wednesday. Then it will be the same for Wycombe on Saturday and then Coventry next Tuesday as well, so it is a big week. We have to focus solely on Middlesbrough on Wednesday night first.”
Looking back on Saturday’s game at Ashton Gate, which saw Derby fall to Famara Diedhiou’s only goal with 12 minutes remaining, Rooney felt the players took on board the messages delivered in training.
He accepts it is hard to speak about the positives after a defeat, but explained: “We were pleased with the performance overall and a lot of good things came out of the game, a lot of positives.
“Ultimately, we lost the game, so in terms of the result it wasn’t what we were looking for. Performance-wise and some of the ideas we challenged the players with throughout the week, the players did well.
“That is all you can ask for as a coach, that the players are taking the messages on board. Now it is about keeping that consistency in terms of performance but also getting a better result.”
Middlesbrough, under Neil Warnock, are in play-off contention after a positive start to the campaign.
Warnock, at the age of 71, is one of the most experienced managers in the game and has achieved eight promotions across his career in management.
Rooney is well aware of how difficult Warnock’s side are to break down and he said: “I have played against Neil Warnock’s teams a lot over the years.
“He can make it very difficult for you to play against his side. We have watched Middlesbrough and how they play. We have to get the players ready for it.”
Rooney has made 34 appearances for Derby, scoring seven times, since joining the club from Major League Soccer side DC United in January of this year.