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Never accuse The Fiver of failing to offer past England players their dues. Big Phil Neville last week, Plain Old John Terry this – and, to complete the hat-trick of 2000s stars who have otherwise been thoroughly upstaged this summer, we now offer you Wayne Rooney. Yes, it’s been a busy old time for Wazza, not least because he manages a club that can barely put out a team of senior players. Derby’s plight has been viewed as the consequence of half a decade’s hubris by some of their rivals, a view that is not without merit. But that’s not going to help their boss, who masterminded an impressive-looking 1-0 win over Real Betis on Wednesday with a side that – and here’s the crucial bit – was largely not actually his.
Triallists Phil Jagielka, Tom Carroll, Sone Aluko, Sam Baldock and Ravel Morrison all helped Derby see off the Spaniards; the Championship mainstays only have nine registered senior players, two of whom are goalkeepers, and have been struggling under an EFL transfer embargo that prevents them making permanent signings from other clubs. “All I can do is bring some dignity and pride back to this club,” Rooney intoned back at the weekend. Half a week is a long time in football, so let’s see how that has gone. Ah.
The top line from his utterings after the Betis win was an apology for the emergence of some decidedly ill-advised images, which appeared to show him asleep in a hotel room surrounded by a group of young women, from a recent night out. The Fiver is nobody to preach about the ills of dozing off in an inconvenient place – who hasn’t woken up at C0ckfosters tube station or inside a bus depot in Lewisham? – but Rooney found himself with some explaining to do. “I made a mistake,” he grovelled. “I went to a private party with two of my friends and from me, I’d like to apologise to my family and the club for the images which were going round and I want to move forward on this.”
Tying down a few new players might help make amends, at Pride Park in the least. Rooney can add one more vacancy to the list after it emerged he clattered Jason Knight, one of his most exciting midfielders, at a recent training game having joined in to swell the numbers of his sparse ranks. Ankle-knack was the diagnosis and Knight may not return until much later in the autumn. “We demand the team train the way they play, and people get injured on the training ground. Unfortunately Jason did,” sighed Rooney, this time cutting a less repentant figure. Training the way they play would, on last season’s evidence, explain the incident pretty well.
Who could fill in for Knight until his much-anticipated return? Derby do have a 35-year-old ex-international, well versed in pulling the midfield strings, who might have recently retired but clearly retains a bit of the old bite. They could certainly do with the Rooney of 10 years ago; the 2021 version, though, has a series of almighty messes to clear up without needing any further distraction.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I take responsibility. I’m the person who has been put in charge. We haven’t got players in, I obviously haven’t done a good enough job convincing people we needed to bring people in. I’m not going to shy away from it. I don’t say that because I’m some kind of martyr, I just think that’s my responsibility, that’s why I was brought in. I have been trying to be as forceful as I can about what we need to bring in, and the challenges we have had are well chronicled” – it’s not even August and the Queen’s Celtic manager is already mulling over their exit from Big Cup, Ange Postecoglou’s side dumped out 3-2 after extra-time by Midtjylland.
“Perhaps it’s just me getting old, but the Annual Queen’s Celtic Big Cup humiliation seems to get earlier and earlier every year” – Noble Francis.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. In the interest of balance, I feel I really should point out that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s predecessor managed to get some pretty decent players to go to Old Trafford too (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sánchez, Romelu Lukaku …), achieved as high a finish in the league as the Norwegian has so far and actually won a trophy, which might not be that Special but is still more than Ole has done” – Robert McPheely.
“Re: Justin Kavanagh’s retort over players’ diving skills (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Shouldn’t the skills of said players inspire Team GB’s swimmers to greater depths (not heights), both physically (clean entry into the water) and morally? Can we leave it there, I’m boring myself now, and am used to The Fiver in providing this sentiment quite effortlessly” – Patrick Wilkinson.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Noble Francis.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
A coroner has ruled that Andrew Devine, 55, who has died 32 years after suffering severe and irreversible brain damage at Hillsborough in 1989, was unlawfully killed, and that therefore he is legally the 97th victim of the disaster.
Portsmouth have released three young players after an investigation into discriminatory language during a group chat that followed the Euro Not 2020 final.
Former Birmingham and Orlando Pride boss Marc Skinner is the new head coach of Manchester United Women.
Poor David Moyes is looking for a West Ham keeper due to repeated knack for Lukasz Fabianski. PSG reserve Alphonse Areola has agreed personal terms on a loan.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is celebrating finally doing something that Lord Ferg couldn’t: signing Raphaël Varane. “I know [Lord Ferg] was very, very close to signing him,” he gurgled. “Raphaël is into his prime as a centre-back.”
In bad news for suits: the combined revenue of European clubs declined by £3.4bn to just £22bn, according to bean counters Deloitte, the first drop since the great global financial unpleasantness of 2008-09.
And Team GB have criticised commentary in which players been misnamed. “It is disappointing,” sniffed Kim Little. “That’s a common theme within the women’s game. As it’s professionalised, as the game’s become a professional sport, the things around it need to keep improving too.”
STILL WANT MORE?
No Europe for Arsenal this season “can be a blessing in disguise”, Rob Holding tells himself Nick Ames.
Josh Wright offers up a player that each of the Premier League 20 should sign.
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