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The news Derby County fans had been dreading finally happened on Friday when Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving the club.
Rooney’s “rollercoaster” tenure has come to an end following his request to be relieved of his duties in the latest blow to the stricken League One club.
The former England captain’s future has been uncertain after the collapse of American businessman Chris Kirchner’s takeover bid last week and he met with administrators Quantuma on Friday to inform them of his decision.
Rooney earned widespread praise last season as Derby’s figurehead during a period of turmoil, with the club sliding into administration and docked 21 points by the Football League.
Derby were relegated from the Championship but Rooney’s work against such a backdrop of chaos was impressive, with the 36-year-old also rejecting the chance to speak with his first club, Everton, over the role as manager.
Rooney had admitted towards the end of last season that he would stay on if Kirchner’s takeover bid was successful, but when he withdrew there were fears he would leave.
The shattering news came on the day when Derby’s short-term future appeared brighter after local businessman David Clowes submitted a bid to buy the club, after purchasing the Pride Park Stadium.
Rooney said in a statement: “Over the course of the summer I have been closely following developments regarding the ownership of Derby County.
“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 eighteen months. I will remember my time at Derby with great pride and affection and would like to thank all of 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.
“Finally, I am aware that the club still have interested parties who wish to take over the running of the club. To them I say this, Derby County is a great club with a great history and great fans. I wish you all the best and much success for the future.”
Wayne Rooney has today informed Derby County Football Club that he wishes to be relieved of his duties as first team manager with immediate effect.#DCFC
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) June 24, 2022
Rooney was initially signed as a player/coach in January 2020 but succeeded Phillip Cocu as manager the following season.
Derby avoided relegation on the final day of the 2020/21 campaign but the following season was torturous, with the club restricted further by a transfer embargo.
Despite impressive victories over the likes of Fulham, Bournemouth and West Brom, relegation was inevitable and the drop into League One was confirmed in April.
A spokesperson on behalf of the joint administrators of Derby said: “The joint administrators are very disappointed that Wayne has taken the difficult decision to leave the club and we have spent some time today trying to persuade him to stay but understand his reasons for wanting to go.
“We are extremely grateful to him for his excellent work in the face of challenging on-field circumstances in the 2021/22 season and admire the manner in which he has led the team, the club and the local community through various off-field issues.
“The joint administrators recognise that staff and supporters will be frustrated and equally disappointed by this news, but we all wish him, his wife Coleen and their four boys every success in the future and we are sure they will always be welcomed back.
“All parties recognise the need to conclude a sale of the business and assets of the club as a matter of urgency and the joint administrators wish to reconfirm that Wayne’s departure will not affect those ongoing, positive discussions.”