Wayne Rooney suggested he would like to remain with Derby County in League One, saying he was proud of his team despite seeing their relegation from the Championship confirmed on Monday.
The Rams will play in the third tier for the first time since the 1985-86 season after falling to a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
That result, coupled with rivals Reading recovering from 4-1 down to earn a remarkable 4-4 draw with Swansea City, means Derby has been relegated with three games to play after a season fraught with crisis.
Deduction of 21 points for Derby – 12 for entering administration in September and nine for breaching the Football League’s financial rules under former owner Mel Morris – and was unable to overcome that significant hurdle despite producing promising results on the pitch.
Asked for his initial thoughts after relegation was confirmed, former Manchester United and England captain Rooney said he was “proud” of his players’ efforts and stressed the importance of completing the club’s takeover as quickly as possible.
Rooney told Sky Sports:
“It’s a strange feeling because [despite] everything we’ve been through as a group, the lads on the pitch, the staff, the fans, the team’s development has been cheerful.
“Yeah, we are facing demotion, but I’ve never seen a team go down and have a reaction from their fans like that.
“I thought it was incredible. The fans’ support gave the lads all season.
“Of course, I’m disappointed, sad, upset, but proud. In some ways, now we can draw a line under everything that’s happened, start the rebirth of this club, and try to move the club forward.
“We need the takeover to happen. It has to happen quickly. The quicker that happens, the quicker we can start to develop the squad and bring in players that can bring us back up.”
Prospective owner Chris Kirchner is close to completing a deal for the Pride Park club.
Rooney hinted he wants the chance to lead the Rams back to the second tier if the takeover goes through.
“The takeover has to happen. If it doesn’t, then I fear for the club. I fear where the club will end up.
“The club’s future is in doubt, and my future is in doubt if it doesn’t happen, so it has to.
“If it does, then I want to rebuild the club. You see what it means to the fans. It’s a big club, a special club.
“And I want to be the one to try to bring those happy days back.”
“I feel for the players because we’ve picked up 52 points, and we’d be safe now in normal circumstances.
“We’ve paid the price for what the former owner has left behind.
“It’s no one’s fault, not mine, not the players, and it’s no fault other than the previous owner. But, unfortunately, we’re paying the price, and I’m sure it’s a sad day for him.”
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