Wayne Rooney got a loud ovation from the home supporters as he made his Derby County coaching debut on Saturday, joining his colleagues on manager Phillip Cocu’s staff on the bench at Pride Park in his first matchday experience with his new club.
It wasn’t enough to inspire the Rams to victory, however, as Queens Park Rangers – who featured American veteran Geoff Cameron at the heart of their midfield – scored from the penalty spot late in the first half to cancel out Martyn Waghorn’s early free-kick strike and earn a 1-1 road draw.
Rooney, 34, signed an 18-month contract with Derby as a player/coach over the summer and finished out the 2019 MLS campaign with D.C. United, so he’s not eligible to take the field until the January transfer window opens. But he’s been with the English Championship side for some time now as he gets acquainted with his new teammates and staff, and Saturday marked another step in that process.
“For the moment, because he’s not allowed to play, he's involved to see how we prepare and get to know the players he will play with in January,” said Cocu afterwards. “And I think he will also be an important link-up for us as a coaching staff with how we want to play against different systems, so if he knows what we want he can use it on the pitch and talk to other players and adjust when it's needed.”
After this weekend’s draw, Derby sit 14th in the 24-team Championship table with 25 points from 19 matches played and a 6W-6L-7D record. He could make his playing debut for the Rams as early as Jan. 2, when they host Barnsley in league play.
“Hopefully I can give the players and the fans a lift. It's always exciting when you join a new club, but when you get to meet the fans for the first time, it will be a nice feeling,” said Rooney in the leadup to Saturday’s match. “I've heard them at games singing my name and different things so I think it's great for all of us. Hopefully it can help us push on. It's an exciting time.”