Wayne Rooney labelled himself as ‘proud’ of his Derby County players as they registered a 2-1 home win over Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.
Derby County’s Board of Directors issued a statement on Friday evening confirmed that the club, the ultimate holding company of the group, and all of the subsidiary companies have filed notices of intention to appoint administrators.
Less than 24 hours later, Derby’s players took the field in the Sky Bet Championship on an emotional day at Pride Park Stadium.
Derby started strongly against the Potters and had a number of early chances to take the lead as they represented their supporters with a dedicated and committed display.
Their performance was rewarded as Academy graduate Max Bird, on the day of his 21st birthday, scored his first-ever senior goal with a stunning long-range strike after 31 minutes to open the scoring.
A second goal followed within three minutes as defender Curtis Davies headed home as Stoke goalkeeper Josef Bursik shot off his line to claim Graeme Shinnie’s free-kick into the box to put Rooney’s side in a commanding position.
Stoke pulled a goal back before the hour mark, through former Derby forward Tom Ince, to set up a tense final half hour, but Rooney’s players dug deep to claim all three points.
After registering three successive draws on home turf at the start of the campaign, the win over the Potters was the Rams’ first on home turf in the 2021/22 season.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney said: “The players deserve a lot of praise and a lot of credit.
“For the situation that the club is in, for the lads to put that effort in today, it would be easy for them to down tools.
“Part of my job is to make sure they are ready and fighting for this club and I thought they were excellent today. I think the fans can be proud of the players today.”
He added: “We’ve been performing well this season and not getting that win in a couple of the games. To put the performance in today and get the three points, I’m delighted.
“I know it’s going to be a tough week now so I will give the lads time to get their legs back and then we will get ready for next Saturday.”
As a result of going into administration, the club faces a 12-point deduction. Once the EFL has received formal notification of the application, the deduction will be applied.
Reacting to the news, Rooney said: “It’s something which has been out of my control and the club has been a mess.
“It’s in a really bad position so it’s my job to bring some calmness, dignity and pride back to this club.
“It wasn’t easy preparing for today. It was difficult but it’s not just the players, it’s the staff at the club who have been at the club for a long time. It’s the unknown now. Next week is going to be a tough week.
“We will keep working, trying to get results and keep pushing.”
He added: “I spoke to the players this morning when we arrived and just made it clear that there is nothing that we can do. It’s always been out of our control, but I expect the players to play for the club today and the shirt and give everything on the pitch.
“We could have drawn the game, we could have lost, but I wouldn’t have minded as long as we saw that attitude. We deserved the win today.”
Rooney’s final word was for Derby’s supporters, who were behind the side, as they have been all season, throughout the afternoon.
He said: “What fans want to see is players playing for the club and earning the right to wear the shirt.
“That’s all fans want to see and they can see that. We have an honest group of players and I thought the fans were excellent in difficult moments. They helped us get through it, we will keep plugging away, trying to get points and see where we are at. We will keep playing and playing with pride.”
Derby have a week until their next Sky Bet Championship fixture, when they make the short trip north to face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane (3pm kick-off).