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Wayne Rooney has stepped down as Derby manager after 17 turbulent months on the day hopes grew for a takeover by a local property group.
Rooney, who led Derby through a difficult period of administration that ended in relegation last season after a 21-point deduction, said: “Today I met with the administrators to inform them of my decision that it was time for me to leave the club. In fairness to them, they tried tremendously hard to change my decision but my mind was made up.
“My time at the club has been a rollercoaster of emotions, both highs and lows, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the challenge.
“Personally, I feel the club now needs to be led by someone with fresh energy and not affected by the events that have happened over the last 18 months. I will remember my time at Derby with great pride and affection and would like to thank all my staff, players and of course the fans for their incredible support. I will never forget you and hope to see you all again in the near future and in happier times.”
Earlier Derby’s administrators had said the club would be able to start the season after receiving a loan from Clowes Developments, the group pursuing a takeover. The League One team’s future has been in doubt since the US businessman Chris Kirchner pulled out of a deal to buy the club at the start of last week.
Clowes, whose chairman, David Clowes, is a Derby fan, has also bought the stadium, Pride Park. The administrators said they were “very disappointed” Rooney was leaving but the former England captain’s decision would not affect “positive discussions” regarding a takeover.
Clowes said it would submit a bid for Derby on Friday and the Football League responded by announcing that it had started the owners’ and directors’ test and an assessment of the “ultimate source and sufficiency of funding to support the proposed business plan”. The joint administrators said Clowes’s loan would “allow the club to start the forthcoming season, and to continue to trade”.
Derby will be playing in the third tier for the first time since 1986 despite Rooney’s best efforts. He had to deal with issues including a transfer embargo last season but the team’s points tally would have seen them comfortably clear of relegation had it not been for the deduction.
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Rooney rejected the chance to be interviewed by Everton in January, saying he had an important job still to do at Derby, but indicated then where he saw his future. “I believe I will be a Premier League manager – I believe I’m ready for that, 100%,” he said. In his first months as manager of Derby, where he arrived as a player-coach in January 2020, he lifted the club off the bottom to avoid relegation.
If Clowes completes a takeover, finding a manager will be an urgent task. David Clowes said before Rooney’s departure was announced: “As a local and established property company, purchasing the stadium seemed the obvious first step. Secondly, as a proud Derby supporter, it was inconceivable to me that the club was at risk of falling away.”