Wayne Rooney says his Derby County players deserve huge credit for the way they’re conducting themselves in the most testing of circumstances.
Derby have been hit with a 21-point deduction this term for entering Administration and after admitting to breaches of the League’s Profitability and Sustainability (P&S) rules.
That has seen Rooney’s side rooted to the bottom of the Sky Bet Championship table - but Derby’s players have shown plenty of spirit as they fight to retain their second-tier status.
After falling into minus points for the second time this season last week, the Rams produced the perfect response with a 3-2 home victory over high-flying AFC Bournemouth on Sunday to move onto zero points.
Rooney accepts that staying in the Championship will be a tough ask with the Rams 15 points adrift of safety but, with over half the season remaining, he knows that anything is still possible.
Derby are back in action on Wednesday night with a trip to league leaders Fulham (7:45pm kick-off) and Rooney says the squad’s togetherness and desire is making him proud.
“As I said after the game on Sunday, the players do deserve a lot of credit because it’s not an easy situation to be in,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“They are working hard every day and they’re a good group. They are together and doing everything they can to get results for Derby County; Sunday was another great example of that.
“We have good players and it’s not me telling them that because I feel that might help them with their performance, I tell them because it’s the truth.
“They are good players and it’s encouraging when you see the players improve so much like they have done this season. I think the likes of Graeme Shinnie, Max Bird, Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies are all using their experience; it’s fantastic.
“Jason Knight is another player that I feel has improved from where he was at last season so it’s very encouraging when you are working from pre-season with a different way of playing and trying to get the players to be more effective.”
Rooney is under no illusions that Derby face a tough test at Craven Cottage.
Fulham have won their last seven league matches in succession and they’ve netted an impressive 48 goals in their 18 outings in the Championship.
Derby have, however, shown they are more than capable of getting results against the division’s top sides this term and that is something they can take great confidence from.
“Fulham have probably been the best team; I know they are sitting top of the league and you will say that they have been the best team in the division this season,” Rooney said.
“I think they are aggressive and have the best striker in the league at the moment in Aleksandar Mitrovic. They take chances and score a lot of goals, so we know personally that we have to be at it.
“We have to try and deny them opportunities. They put a lot of crosses in the box and Mitrovic has great movement, puts his head on things but we know it’s a game that if we go there and do the right things then we have a great chance of winning.
“We are not going there to roll over or to go and try and nick a point, we know the position that we are in and we have to win games. We have to go into matches and get three points and that’s what we will be aiming to do.”
Striker Sam Baldock and defender Lee Buchanan were both forced off in Sunday’s game against Bournemouth owing to injuries.
The pair have undone scans to determine how long they will be out of action for with Baldock suffering from a hamstring complaint, while Buchanan has a knee injury.
He said: “We are still waiting on the results of the scans but Sam’s situation is something which has been ongoing so we will see what the scan brings up.
“On Lee, we are pretty sure, will be six to eight weeks so it’s a shame for Lee.
“As always, if someone gets injured, it’s an opportunity for someone else.”