Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney’s role in Birmingham City relegation from Championship

Wayne Rooney was one of four managers Birmingham employed this season
Wayne Rooney was one of four managers Birmingham employed this season -Credit:Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

Birmingham City have been relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in 30 years, four months after Wayne Rooney’s ill-fated spell.

The Manchester United legend was brought into St Andrew’s after the Blues parted company with John Eustace, despite being in the top six of the table. Rooney barely lasted three months before heading out of the exit door.

That was his third managerial role, having taken charge of Derby County when they were relegated to League One amid turbulent administration troubles in 2022 before spending three months at US MLS franchise DC United last year. Rooney says he plans to get back into the management game, although now has a big blip on his CV.

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When was Rooney hired by Birmingham?

Few were shocked when Birmingham unveiled Rooney as their new boss on October 11 after weeks of intense speculation. Many questioned the move given Eustace’s work in steering the Blues away from relegation last season and starting the new campaign well.

Some criticised new owners Shelby Companies Limited - who, with NFL legend Tom Brady on board, had completed their takeover in July - for appearing to seek a celebrity signing for commercial purposes.

"Wayne is a born winner," insisted Blues co-owner and chairman Tom Wagner at the time. "His playing philosophy will help to realise the ambitions we have set for Birmingham City.”

Rooney added: “We will create a winning culture here with an identity that gets Blues fans on their feet. My job is to elevate the club to the next level.”

What happened during his tenure?

During his first outing away at Middlesbrough, Rooney admitted having a “strange feeling” when the news broke inside the Riverside stadium that United icon Sir Bobby Charlton had passed away.

He and opposite number Michael Carrick, whom had closely known the United hero, joined in the rest of the stadium in holding a round of applause in his honour. On the pitch, the start of a three-game winless run began.

A 1-0 defeat was followed with losses to Hull City and Southampton before picking up an applaudable but belated point at home to now-promoted Ipswich Town. A 3-1 defeat to Sunderland ensued before Rooney earned his first win in a 2-1 triumph over Sheffield Wednesday on November 25.

Only one more win would come in his final nine games, a 1-0 victory at Cardiff, with a draw against Rotherham and a loss to Stoke low points.

When was he sacked?

Just two wins in 15 matches and 10 points out of a possible 45 left Rooney in an untenable position and he was shown the door two days into the new year. In terms of time, he became the shortest-serving Blues boss in the club’s 132-year history.

Birmingham had slipped from sixth to 20th during his tenure and lingered six points above the drop zone. Sacked Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray shortly took over but stepped back due to health issues in February, and so Gary Rowett oversaw the rest of the season and ultimately the club’s relegation.

What has Rooney said?

Confirming his exit from Birmingham, Rooney released a statement acknowledging his under-par tenure but arguing he had not been given enough time. "Football is a results business - and I recognise they have not been at the level I wanted them to be,” he said.

“However, time is the most precious commodity a manager requires and I do not believe 13 weeks was sufficient to oversee the changes that were needed. Personally, it will take me some time to get over this setback. I have been involved in professional football, as either a player or manager, since I was 16.

"Now, I plan to take some time with my family as I prepare for the next opportunity in my journey as a manager. Finally, I wish Birmingham City FC and its owners my best wishes in the pursuit of their ambitions."

Rooney has been linked with possible celebrity boxing bouts since his exit but says his main aim is to get back into management. Appearing on The Overlap, he said: "They've [boxing promoters] been in touch and asked the question but I think at the minute I want to focus on getting back into management.”

For now, he will become a regular panel member on The Overlap podcast as he seeks his next steps.