sport news ON THE ROAD: Wayne Rooney facing his toughest test as Derby have one chance to ...

Wayne Rooney went to south Wales and it was, as one of his mentors might say, squeaky bum time.

It will remain that way through to Saturday after this sixth successive defeat set up a relegation shootout with Sheffield Wednesday, part of a three-way scrap that includes Rotherham.

On a Bank Holiday weekend so cold and wet it would dissuade the most determined daytripper, a hard rain continued to fall on Rooney's first season in management.

 

Wayne Rooney's first season as a manager is being pushed to the edge in a relegation fight

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Wayne Rooney's first season as a manager is being pushed to the edge in a relegation fight

Derby were leading at Swansea but eventually lost in South Wales and remain in real danger

Derby were leading at Swansea but eventually lost in South Wales and remain in real danger

His rookie leadership skills will now receive their sternest test as he tries to revive a group down on confidence and, on this evidence, somewhat down on their luck as well.

'This game on Saturday is not about me, it's about the players making sure they do the best they can for this football club,' he summarised afterwards.

The trouble is that his profile means it will be largely centred on him, especially if Derby end up plunging into the third tier for the first time in 37 years.

His whole association with the club was facilitated by a betting sponsor, and a gamble it has turned out to be.

The debate about whether great players make good managers is an eternal and fascinating one, although it has no conclusive answer. There are obvious comparisons with Rooney's England contemporaries who have tried their hand at it, such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, not to mention Sol Campbell.

Yet perhaps the most apt parallel in Rooney's case might end up being Sir Bobby Charlton. At the same age, 35, he took over at Preston and presided over relegation in his first season. He lasted barely 18 months before leaving over transfer wrangles, never to return to management.

Next Saturday might yet determine the whole course of Rooney's future career.

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Rooney has tried to inspire since replacing Phillip Cocu but he has not managed enough points

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