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Wayne Rooney lives up to man of the hour billing as Derby County debut ends in victory – inews

Jan 2nd, 2020

SportFootballThe former England captain enjoyed a winning start as Derby beat Barnsley 2-1 at Pride Park

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 9:56 pm

Wayne Rooney has his 174th career assist and, adding a historic twist to a momentous occasion, a first in the Championship. Well, thats the technical term. For a more comprehensive sense of the moment Rooney elevated this torrid thrash into something approximating art you needed to be among the Derby faithful going nuts in Pride Park or within the perimeter walls of the city, which were trembling under the weight of the celebration. His not theirs.

Rooney decided against running 50 metres to join the carnival precipitated by Jack Marriots conversion of his sumptuous, looping free-kick. A simulated right hook and a gutteral holler said it all. A cynic might claim he did not have the legs. Rooney would argue it was practically half-time and better to commune in the tunnel. Besides, he lasted the whole 90 minutes and had a hand in the winner, a raking pass from left to right to pick out Andre Wisdom, who advanced to the byline to put the ball on Martyn Waghorns unerring toe.

Though Rooneys debut has pushed Derby up the news agenda it had not penetrated the catering bubble in the press suite, or at least not that of our server, who wondered why the queue for chicken pie was out the door. The quality of the dish merited the interest of the national media, of course, but not in a way that was immediately apparent. The players lounge is obviously busy so Im on my own for the moment, she said apologetically, clearly unable to connect the increased traffic in both spaces.

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No such difficulty for head coach Phillip Cocu, who went all in by starting Rooney as captain. The man of the hour has been in full training for a month itching for his international clearance from the FA. His deployment has come to mean something more pressing than it did when chairman Melvyn Morris cast his fishing rod across the Atlantic looking for a mascot to keep the clubs profile high.

The sense of a team ascending under Frank Lampard has been lost under Cocu and the financial constraints experienced by a chairman who has spent the last 12 months seeking investors in a project that has already cost him 100m. Indeed, it was hard to know if the smiles on the faces of his team-mates were triggered by Rooneys inclusion or the receipt of overdue wages.

For Rooney this project is all about a soft entry into the coaching sphere whilst indulging his love of the game on the pitch. With the club in 17th place, ten points outside the play-offs before the start of the game, Rooneys selection was less embellishment more necessity. The hope is that Rooney acts as a catalyst to a climb up the Championship ladder much as he did in the 18 months he spent at DC United in the MLS.

Rooney stationed himself in central midfield with Duane Holmes hustling at his right and Jason Knight, the clubs 18-year-old manboy much admired by the skipper, to his left. Rooney could not offer the metres traced by the kids but when the ball entered his orbit his pedigree was obvious in the certainty of his touch, his intuitive appreciation of place and his passing.

A degree of incongruity was to be expected. Sport is about levels after all. As the game rumbled agriculturally about him Rooney was transported back to his park days in Croxteth, pretty much the last time he was asked to bring order to chaos on this scale. As the ball pinged about on the edge of the Barnsley area you prayed for it to spin out to Rooneys feet so that the effort spent might meet with a reward.

It seemed as if the players of both teams were trying just a little too hard to gain Rooneys approval, as if a bunch of painters and decorators had been let loose in the Sistine Chapel for a bit of work experience touching up frescos with Michelangelo. Barnsley had a brief moment on the dance floor with a goal five minutes after the break. It was but a minor blemish on Rooneys night, parity lasting just seven minutes.

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Wayne Rooney lives up to man of the hour billing as Derby County debut ends in victory - inews

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