Wayne Rooney has challenged his Derby County players to continue their impressive run of form in the Sky Bet Championship.
Derby will make the short journey across Brian Clough Way on Saturday to face Nottingham Forest at the City Ground (12:30pm kick-off) and the second meeting of the season between the two local rivals will see them go head-to-head in front of the live Sky Sports cameras.
The eagerly anticipated encounter will be played in the backdrop of another challenging week off the field for the club.
Derby remain in administration, a position they’ve been in since September, and their future has been discussed at length in public this week on a national scale.
On the pitch, though, Rooney’s side are impressively going about their jobs and have picked up four wins and a draw from their last five league outings.
It’s a run of form that has taken the Rams within eight points of clawing their way out of the relegation zone despite a hefty 21-point deduction earlier in the campaign.
So, ahead of the meeting with Forest, Rooney wants his side to continue their fine run.
“You just have play your normal game,” Rooney told RamsTV. “It’s a local derby game, of course, and we know there is a chance of red cards in these types of occasions so we have to play our game and keep performing like we have been.
“We have been in a good run of form, we are confident and if we play the way we have been then we have a great chance of winning.
“I said to the lads today: what is the best preparation for us to go into this game and win? It just to keep playing the way we have been and enjoy it.
“These are games that you have to enjoy and when you are enjoying playing football, you play better.”
He added: “We know it will be a tough game. Forest have got good players and a good manager, so we are not going into this game taking it lightly at all. We have to give everything. I know the fans will be right behind us and create a great atmosphere.”
Rooney has regularly heaped praise on his players this season for the way they have conducted themselves in testing circumstances.
He believes, once again, the Rams’ players have shown great focus and dedication on the training pitches at Moor Farm Training Ground this week ahead of the clash with Steve Cooper’s side.
“There has been a lot going on; in a strange way I think it helps us as a group leading up to a big game,” he said. “With all the hype and everyone talking on social media it can bring nerves and excitement too soon. We’ve just gone about our job of preparing the team and they have been great all week.
“The squad deserve an enormous amount of praise and credit because of the effort they are putting in every day in training.
“The work they are putting in is great. Even today, if there is a break in training, I am seeing the lads talk to each other tactically about improving and they have been enjoyable to work with.”