Wayne Rooney says his Derby County players will continue to fight until the end as they look to pull off what many regard as an ‘impossible job’ but retaining their Sky Bet Championship status.
Derby have had two separate points deductions this season, totalling up to 21 points, and have been in administration since September.
Those deductions have left the Rams bottom of the table and fighting to stay in the second tier of English football.
Despite having the odds stacked against them, Rooney’s side continue to fight and have earned plaudits for their desire and fighting spirit in the most testing of times.
The Rams have won three of their last four matches on home turf, with the most recent being the 1-0 success against promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion on Bank Holiday Monday, and they remain 14 points adrift of safety with half the season left to play.
Derby’s latest festive fixture will see them travel to Stoke City on Thursday evening (7:45pm kick-off) and the Rams’ manager says his players will be up for the battle once again.
“We know it’s another difficult game,” Rooney told RamsTV after the win over West Bromwich Albion.
“Stoke are a good team and they play good football, so we will prepare the best we can.
“We will be ready to play and battle again and it’s an important time of the season for everyone.
“If you can build some momentum now, it will be huge for us.
“We will keep fighting, keep putting in performances and trying to pick up points.
“Once we get to around mid-February we will have a better idea of whether we have a realistic chance of staying up or whether we are in League One - but we will keep going until the end.”
After reaching the halfway point of the season, Rooney believes there’s scope for improvement with his side in several areas.
A number of youngsters from the club’s Academy have been key players this term, while others have dipped in and out of the team at various stages, and they have all been guided by the squad’s senior professionals.
Rooney has been impressed with how his players have conducted themselves on and off the pitch and believes there’s plenty of potential in the Derby dressing room.
“There is always room for improvement everywhere, right across the team,” Rooney said.
“We all want to get better and all want to learn as well, but with the squad of players we have got, if we went into the season with no points deduction and you told us we would stay in the league, we would be happy with that.
“We will keep fighting, keep trying to pick up points and chase the teams down that are ahead of us.”