WAYNE ROONEY remained impressively poker-faced as he outlined his first priority as co-caretaker manager of Derby.
“While I’m in this position I’ll be giving myself a new three-year-deal,” revealed the tracksuit-clad player-boss, before breaking into that familiar Rooney grin.
Yet even if he was serious about slipping on a set of golden-handcuffs tying him down to Derby for the foreseeable future, the 35-year-old made it clear . . . he would have to run it by his own Rams’ management committee first!
Right now, Rooney only forms 25 per cent of Derby’s interim management team — the remaining 75 per cent consists of first-team coach Liam Rosenior, goalkeeper coach Shay Given and first-team development coach Justin Walker.
Until current owner and chairman Mel Morris officially hands over the baton to Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Bin Zayed Group, that is how it will remain.
Former boss Phillip Cocu, for all his experience, could not single-handedly prevent Derby’s slide to the foot of the Championship — now the Rams have decided four heads are better than one as they attempt to stop the rot.
Preparing for tomorrow’s trip to face Covid-hit Bristol City, Rooney looked at ease with the arrangement while facing the media for the first time as a full-time part-boss.
And Rosenior was rightly given equal prominence sitting beside him.
The danger of such an arrangement is what the Derby players will make of having FOUR right-hand men to turn to in the heat of battle, when one clear voice is required.
However Rooney and Rosenior are convinced they can end the confusion which was evident in Cocu’s dismal final days and introduce some much-needed clarity.
Ex-Manchester United star Rooney said: “The big thing we need to bring back to the players and into our game is simplicity.
“You can over-complicate things and that’s not always great for players in this position. Different messages, different line-ups, different ways of playing.
“When you’re struggling and not winning games of football you are always thinking of different ideas of how you get out of that run of bad form. But often the best way out of that is simplicity.
“As a player you learn, as your career goes on, that if you give the ball away two or three times, the next time the ball comes to you, keep it simple and naturally your confidence grows.
“Then you can start making more difficult passes again. I think it’s the same with players. Make things simple, don’t overcomplicate by feeding them information which will frazzle their heads.
“Just do the simple things right and everything will fall into place.”
Rosenior was already reading off the same page and added: “Simplicity is genius sometimes.
“The most important thing now is clear messaging. Our skill as coaches isn’t knowing the most complex ideas — it’s about helping the players understand them.
“This week we have probably fitted two months worth of tactical work into three days without the players even knowing it. But judgment comes on Saturday.
“It’s not about how enjoyable or clever your sessions are, it’s about how much knowledge and understanding the players have at the end of them.
“Their response has been magnificent and now we have difficult decisions to make.
“Managers used to tell me the first XI was hard to pick but picking the subs’ bench was even harder — I’m finding that out now.”
At 35, the big question is when Rooney stops being an automatic choice as a player and starts spending more time in the technical area?
When England’s greatest ever goalscorer was asked if he was playing at Bristol, Rosenior answered for his co-manager, saying: “He doesn’t know yet.”
Before Rooney added: “You’ll have to wait and see. I know I’m in the twilight of my career.
“Am I in the finest moment of my career? Of course I’m not, I’m 35 so we’ll have to see what happens.
“But for now I’ve got my toes in both dressing rooms — one as a player — one trying to lead the team. We’ll see where it takes us and there will be a decision made from there.”
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