Wayne Rooney is relishing Derby County’s return to Sky Bet Championship action on Saturday afternoon.
Derby have had a two-week break from their league programme, owing to the scheduling of the Emirates FA Cup last weekend, following a relentless period of matches in November and December.
Rooney, who was appointed as the Rams’ permanent manager on Friday, will oversee his first ‘proper’ game in charge against Rotherham United at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Rotherham sit one place and three points behind Derby in the Championship table and the game provides an opportunity for Rooney’s side to pull further away from the Millers.
A win could see Derby move out of the bottom three as they look to continue their progressive form under Rooney, having picked up three wins and four draws from their last nine league matches.
Rooney is taking nothing for granted, however, and is expecting a tough test against Paul Warne’s side.
“It will be a tough game,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“Rotherham play a back five and with a lot of energy, they hunt the ball down really well too, so we have to be on our toes and ready to compete.
“We have to win second balls and have a belief that we can go and win the game and take the game to Rotherham.
“There will be moments in the game that we might have to get through, but we are ready for that and will prepare for that.
“If we play how I feel we can, and how I want the team to play, then we will create chances and it is obviously down to us to take those chances.”
He added: “I am excited for the game, looking forward to it. It will be a big game, a tough game so the players will be ready.”
Derby’s players returned to Moor Farm this week after being forced to close their training facility last week.
A COVID-19 outbreak saw several first-team players and staff members test positive for the illness and as a result they, and their close contacts, were forced to self-isolate.
As a result, members of Derby’s Under-23s and Under-18s sides made up the side that was beaten 2-0 at Chorley the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup last Saturday.
Rooney says everyone has returned to training this week in good health ahead of Saturday’s match.
“I think everyone is fine now,” Rooney said.
“We have stuck to the rules and we had a period of self-isolation at home. The lads have come back in this week and looked really fresh.
“They have had a lot of energy in training and are well-prepared for the game tomorrow.”