Wayne Rooney has told troubled Derby County that he wishes to be “relieved of his duties as first-team manager” with immediate effect.
The 36-year-old’s contract with the club had another year to run.
The Rams have been in administration since September last year and were relegated to League One last season.
“I feel the club now needs to be led by someone with fresh energy and not affected by events that have happened over the last 18 months,” he said.
The former Everton, Manchester United and England forward said he had been “closely following developments” regarding the ownership of the club and informed joint administrators Quantuma of his decision at a meeting on Friday during which they tried “tremendously hard” to change his mind.
“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,” Rooney added.
“I will remember my time at Derby with great pride and affection and would like to thank all 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.”
- Clowes to make bid for Rams after purchasing Pride Park
- Derby to face Mansfield in two cup competitions
The news came on the same day that property developer David Clowes announced a bid to buy the club after purchasing Derby’s Pride Park stadium.
His company Clowes Developments (UK) Ltd, have also given a loan to the club to allow them to start next season.
It followed the collapse of US businessman Chris Kirchner’s takeover plans on 13 June – a bid which Rooney had publicly backed in April when he was confirmed as the preferred bidder.
Derby are due to play Oxford United in their opening League One game on 30 July, but are still subject to an English Football League embargo and only have sfive senior players under contract.
In a statement, Quantuma 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.”
They added, however, that Rooney’s decision to leave would not affect “ongoing, positive discussions” about the sale of the club.
First job in management
Rooney, England’s record goal-scorer with 53 goals in 120 internationals, joined Derby as a player in January 2020 following a spell in US Major League Soccer with DC United.
He was put in interim charge of the team in November of that year – his first job in management – with the club bottom of the Championship after they parted company with Phillip Cocu.
Rooney was confirmed in the post on a two-and-half-year contract three months later, a decision which prompted him to confirm his retirement as a player.
He managed to keep the Rams up by virtue of a 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the 2020-21 season, having twice been behind in the game.
But former owner Mel Morris’ decision to place the club into administration and breaches of EFL financial rules meant Rooney was hamstrung last season by the deduction of 21 points, and a transfer embargo.
Derby eventually finished next to bottom, seven points from safety. Had the points deductions not been imposed, they would have stayed up in 21st place.
Rooney’s dignity and close bond with his players and staff won him countless admirers among Derby supporters, which led to him being linked with other jobs at former club Everton and Burnley.
The club must now begin a search for his successor, at the same time as trying to conclude a takeover deal that will secure their future.
‘Fans won’t blame him for leaving’ – Analysis
Charlie Slater, BBC East Midlands Today sports reporter
The news will certainly come as a shock to Derby fans, particularly given the positive noises being made around the purchase of the stadium and a fresh bid from local businessman David Clowes earlier today.
That said, I don’t think many, if any, Derby fans will blame Wayne for leaving.
He has an incredible amount of credit in the bank and developed a relationship with Derby fans and the local area that few people manage in a lifetime. He took the club on his shoulders, spoke up both publicly and privately in important meetings, drove the club forwards on the pitch and can leave Pride Park with a huge amount of pride.
I always found him to be remarkably open, especially given the career he has had and the weight of fame that he still has to carry every day.
I understand that Rooney’s assistant, Liam Rosenior, will take training on Monday morning when the club’s five remaining contracted players return for pre-season. Rosenior himself was linked with the Derby job before Rooney took the reins – I wonder if the right man for the job could already be in place?
A spokesperson from Clowes Developments has this evening told me that they, like so many Derby fans are grateful to Wayne for all of his work at the club and want to wish him all the best for the future. Whatever happens from here, we can only hope for a swift resolution to a takeover that has seen so many people affected, lose jobs, money and sleep.