Wayne Rooney will lead Derby County into this weekend’s home fixture against Wycombe Wanderers - and he has made it clear that now is the time for the side to kick-start their season.
Derby are looking to appoint a permanent manager following Phillip Cocu’s departure earlier this month and Rooney, alongside coaches Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker, have overseen training and matches since.
However, to have one person making the final decisions, it has collectively been decided that Rooney would be the individual to take on that role.
The 35-year-old former England international will be supported by Rosenior, Given and Walker and he has made the decision to leave himself out the matchday squad as a player for Saturday’s match against Wycombe at Pride Park Stadium (3pm kick-off).
Rooney believes it is a decision he had to make to ensure he can fulfil the role to the best of his ability.
Speaking to RamsTV, he said: “Over the last two games (the losses against Bristol City and Middlesbrough) the four of us have done it together and I think it was obvious that it needed one voice and one person making the final decisions on the team, players coming into the team and substitutions coming on to the pitch.
“We discussed it and felt that I was the right man to do that. For the players too, just to have that clarity that there is one person in charge, is important.
“We are working together, we are preparing the sessions and getting the team prepared together, but ultimately the final decisions on who plays and does not play is on me. I take responsibility for that in the same way I will take responsibility of the result tomorrow.”
Rooney added: “I won’t be involved tomorrow in the game as a player. To do this I have to give it all my time and attention. It wouldn’t be right for me to try and do this and play in the game.
“It was difficult, but it was a decision I had to make. The priority is the team and getting a positive result again. I feel that this is the best way to do that.”
Derby’s start to the season has, as everyone associated with the squad will accept, been disappointing.
They find themselves at the foot of the table after 13 games, picking up one win during that time, but with 33 matches still to play there is plenty of time for the Rams to turn their form around and climb the table.
Rooney has labelled tomorrow’s meeting with Wycombe, who have enjoyed a fairytale rise up the leagues under Gareth Ainsworth, as a fresh start for Derby.
The former Manchester United legend is, however, fully aware that the Rams need to improve quickly, especially with successive home matches against Wycombe and then Coventry City next Tuesday on the horizon.
He is pleased with how the squad has trained over the last few days and says the players have been told in no uncertain terms what is expected of them on the pitch.
“What has happened before is behind us, we have to look at tomorrow’s game as a new beginning,” Rooney explained.
“The season starts now and the players are ready. They have prepared well and training has been really good so it is an opportunity for us. We have got two home games coming up and we need to start getting points.
“In terms of quality, attitude, determination to put things right, the players know what we expect of them and they have been given that message. I am confident that I will get a good response from them.
“Confidence is not easy to switch on and off. You obviously have to keep building on your confidence and keep working and find ways out of bad moments, which we are in. There is no denying that, we are in a bad moment.
“In terms of the players, they need to find a release to some of the opportunities we are getting, they need to let their shots go more, take more risks in the right areas of the pitch.
“There are messages the players have been given this morning and I am pleased with how they trained this morning. They will be ready; I am sure of that.”
He added: “We know it is an important time and that we need to get it right. We know we need to pick up points because the longer it goes on, we are digging ourselves into a deeper hole.”