Can Derby County get out of the mire and avoid relegation?
It’s a pretty sad state of affairs at Derby County at the moment. Despite the team’s decent start to the season, which has seen them pick up three wins and five draws, Wayne Rooney’s side are rooted to the bottom of the table after the club’s entry into administration triggered a 12-point deduction.
With two points to their name, they are only seven points from safety at this early stage of the season, but it still feels harsh on Rooney and his team that they are in this position through no fault of their own. Many expected Derby to struggle this season, and they were among the favourites for the drop in the Championship relegation odds, but the players have shown tremendous spirit to perform as they have done so far.
For a coach of Rooney’s relative inexperience, he has handled the dire situation the club is in with considerable calmness and professionalism. In truth, there is little he can do except train the team and try to put points on the board, despite the whirlwind of controversy surrounding the club.
The 35-year-old, who announced his retirement last season, was forced to operate on a shoestring budget during the summer transfer window, bringing in free agents like Ravel Morrison, Phil Jagielka and Sam Baldock, whilst watching a number of players depart through the gates. Nonetheless, Rooney has crafted what looks to be a competitive side, and he’ll be hoping that the deducted points don’t end up costing his team dearly.
The bright points have been the three victories over Hull City, Stoke City and Reading respectively. That win against Stoke was the most significant, as it came just hours after it was announced that the club was going into administration. A big performance was needed to stop the atmosphere from turning sour, and Derby duly delivered, with Max Bird and Curtis Davies scoring in a 2-1 triumph.
Rooney deserves praise for maintaining a strong sense of team spirit throughout the club’s crisis, and you feel that if Derby can avoid relegation despite the drama off the pitch, it’ll be a monumental achievement. The threat of further points deductions still lingers, but all Rooney and co. can do is continue to keep the dressing room together and perform to the best of their ability.
It’s unlikely the team will be strengthened at all in the January transfer window, with the administrators seeking to cut every bit of extraneous expenditure. That means Derby are stuck with the hand they’ve been given until the end of the season, but it offers an opportunity for Rooney and his staff to foster a siege mentality.
Often, hard times can bring the best out of teams, and there will be a real desire amongst the players to prove the doubters wrong this season. Many wrote them off before a ball had even been kicked, but there is still a chance to make this a memorable campaign if they can get their heads back above water.
Derby’s supporters have suffered greatly in recent months. It would be fitting if the team provided them with something to cheer on the pitch this season, even if the future of the club as a whole looks increasingly bleak.