• Trent Hutson

Rooney delighted with Rams squad ahead of Millwall trip

Caretaker boss Wayne Rooney admitted he hasn't trained with his players this week as he settles further into his new role ahead of Derby's clash with Millwall at The Den this weekend.

The Rams are currently marooned at the bottom of the SkyBet Championship table and are without a win in 11 league outings, however, in the two matches that the 35-year-old has managed, there have been many positives he has grasped.

Rooney stated: “I’m enjoying it and I’m really pleased with the reaction of the players in the last two games. I think the performance on Tuesday night was an improvement from the one on Saturday and on another day we could be sat here having picked up six points from those two games because I believe we deserved to win them.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve got two, but there’s been progress in the performances – how we’re building up, how we’re creating chances and I’m really pleased with the players in that aspect, we just need to learn to see the games out.”

It isn’t yet clear whether Rooney will get the nod to permanently take over as Derby County manager, however, he’s doing everything in his power to succeed and stay committed to the role day-by-day.

He exclaimed: “I haven’t trained over the last week with the team, I’ve done some individual stuff at home but as I said last week when I started this role, in order for me to do this I need to give it my full attention and time – which I think this role deserves that from me and that’s what I’m doing.”

Wayne Rooney and Shay Given watch on against Coventry. Photo: Derby County FC.

Colin Kazim-Richards was the provider against Wycombe Wanderers and the frontman also netted his first goal in Derby colours against Coventry City on Tuesday night and Rooney was full of praise regarding the experienced striker.

He admitted: “He’s been brilliant the last two games, obviously he was disappointed to be left out of the squad for the Bristol City game but his attitude and desire to come in train well and work hard for the team since then has been brilliant, he really has been an example to the other players on the training pitch.”

Rooney also confirmed that there are no additional injuries for the Rams ahead of the trip to Millwall. He said: “Everyone’s fit and fine so I’ll have a full squad to pick from.”

He further explained the condition of his squad and gave an update on Jordan Ibe who is yet to appear since returning to the club this summer.

He revealed: “He’s very close. I was delighted today - it was by far his best day since coming back to the club. In training you can see that sharpness coming back to him, so he’s certainly given me a decision to make as to whether he makes the squad on Saturday but he’s progressing really well and getting up to speed.”

Across the first two games that Rooney has overseen, 12 changes have been made and additional faces could be added to the squad at The Den.

Rooney stated: “I’ll look at the opposition and work out which players are best suited to that game, that’s what I’ve done for the first two games and for the game on Saturday. I’ll first make sure the players have recovered well from the game on Tuesday night and I’ll pick the best 11 players to start the game who are suited for Millwall.”

Confidence is a massive factor in football and Derby’s current string of results wouldn’t insight a great deal of that into anyone, but Rooney is happy with their state of mind and gave an honest assessment of where they’re currently at mentally.

He disclosed: “We have the get the players in the best frame of mind to go play and perform for us, but the lads can take encouragement from the last two games because they have been real positives in my eyes. The performances have been better, we’re creating more chances and they’re enjoying playing again.

“They can walk off that pitch with their heads held high because they performed well, and I believe if we keep performing the way we are then we will start winning games.”

The Rams have shipped the third-most goals in the division so far this campaign, so improving defensive stability is something Rooney is finding key to instil in his players.

“The more we do that the more we will score and we’ve conceded two late goals which have cost us two points in each game but we’ve looked a lot better defensively as well and more on the front foot, so there are areas we’re working on that are pleasing to see, it’s good that the lads are taking that information in and they’re doing what we’re asking for on the pitch," he said.

“If the strikers don’t close the ball down it’s almost impossible for the back four to get up and out of the box, so we need to be cleverer than we have been. We need to stop the balls coming into the box rather than relying on our defenders to put their heads on things – if we get in that position again hopefully we can react better to that.”

The players are also seemingly matching Rooney’s high standards and work ethic given his comments about their training for matches.

He added: “The training has been sharp and really good. I gave the players a day off on Wednesday and there were still players coming in to train on their day off.”

In addition, fans are keen to see the takeover deal of the club completed and these views were echoed by Rooney.

He said: “The first thing is getting the ownership over the line, but I’ve stated on Tuesday and Saturday that, of course, I want to do this role full-time, but we are where we are, we have to wait for all the paperwork to be sorted and then we see what happens from there. I’m no further on than what I knew on Tuesday night.”