Wayne Rooney has agreed to take his first steps into management at Derby after the Championship’s bottom club sacked Phillip Cocu, but the former England captain does not meet the club’s criteria as a permanent manager.
Rooney, 35, has been put in interim charge for Saturday’s game against Bristol City, alongside fellow coaches Justin Walker, Shay Given and Liam Rosenior.
Derby expect a deluge of applicants to succeed Cocu but want a successor who has experience of getting a team promoted from the Championship, can develop young talent and is available now rather than managing in a current job.
Former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is one of four contenders ticking all those boxes and is understood to be on a provisional shortlist.
Roberto Di Matteo, formerly of Chelsea and West Brom, ex-Reading boss Brian McDermott, and Nigel Adkins, who managed Southampton, are the others.
Derby have won only one of their first 11 Championship games, a 1-0 victory against Norwich thanks to a late Rooney goal. The club is also awaiting a £60million takeover by Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Khaled.
Cocu received news of his departure on Saturday, with his assistant-manager Chris van der Weerden and first team coach Twan Scheepers also leaving.
Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer Rooney, currently in his second season at Pride Park as a player-coach, released a statement that said: ‘I am sorry that Phillip and his staff have left the club. I want to thank him personally for all his help and encouragement as part of his coaching staff.
‘The most important thing now is to stabilise the club and start moving up the table. I’ve been asked to be part of the coaching staff to help the team’s preparation for next Saturday’s vital match against Bristol City. The coaches and I will speak with the players on Monday.’
Announcing Cocu’s exit, Derby said: ‘The club would like to place on record its appreciation for the way Phillip and his staff conducted themselves in what were some extremely challenging situations during his tenure.’
Derby have taken only six points this season after a turbulent period in the club’s history that saw captain Richard Keogh sacked for gross misconduct, successfully fighting an EFL charge of breaching spending rules and seeing both Rooney and Cocu have to self-isolate this season during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rooney has been arguably the biggest name in British football since bursting on to the scene as a 16-year-old at Everton. He won 11 major trophies in 13 years at Manchester United before rejoining Everton in 2017 and then playing in the MLS for Washington. He joined Derby at the start of 2020 and has scored seven goals in 33 games. He also scored a record 53 goals for England.
Rooney has admitted carefully following the progress of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard into management. ‘It is the right time for young English managers to step forward,’ he said in 2018. ‘It is a shame when you see players who have had careers like mine, when they have been footballers from a young age, you see them finish and just walk away from the game.’
Rosenior is the most experienced of the quartet in terms of coaching but Rooney’s stature in the game means he is sure to have a major say in how the team prepare and line up at Ashton Gate.