Preston North End boss Alex Alex Neil says Wayne Rooney's doing the right thing by concentrating on coaching at Derby

Preston boss Alex Neil knows what Wayne Rooney is feeling as the legendary England begins to make the transition from player to manager.
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The record scorer for his country has taken charge of Derby County – PNE’s Boxing day opponent’s at Pride Park – on a caretaker basis following the removal of previous manager Phillip Cocu after a poor start to the season.

Rooney arrived at the Rams in August of last year initially as a player-coach, and remains on the playing staff, although it appears he is set to hang up boots – especially if he is handed the job on a full-time basis.

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Neil , of course, started out as a player-manager with Scottish side Hamilton Academicals before eventually concentrating solely on management.

Wayne Rooney after scoring for Derby at Deepdale in the summerWayne Rooney after scoring for Derby at Deepdale in the summer
Wayne Rooney after scoring for Derby at Deepdale in the summer

The difficulties of combining both roles, especially in the modern game, is something Neil knows all too well.

And in any case he is perhaps happy that the former Manchester United and Everton ace is unlikely to feature on Saturday, having been on the receiving end of his brilliance only recently.

Rooney scored a superb free-kick in July which helped Derby to a 1-0 victory at Deepdale last season.

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While he probably will not have to worry about his threat on the pitch, Rooney – now aged 35 – has certainly made his presence felt in the dugout and the Rams are currently on a six-match unbeaten run

“Well he’s been dangerous and he’s got quality hasn’t he?,” said Neil.

“I don’t think there are any questions about that – the free-kick at our place last year sticks in the memory.

“But Wayne I think looks to me now as though he’s made his mind up, that this is his time to convert himself from a player to a manager – and to be fair he’s done a good job.

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“So yeah, he’s given himself the best possible opportunity for them to make a decision in his favour.

“It’s extremely difficult to play, when you’re starting to get older, and affect games and then manage as well – that’s not easy, so he’s took himself out of the firing line to focus on coaching.”

Neil is not surprised to see Derby enjoy a resurgence, believing they were always going to improve once some of their key players returned from injury.

“To be fair to Phillip Cocu, if you look at the teams he was fielding, he had so many injuries,” said Neil.

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“We played them in the cup and the likes of Waghorn, Lawrence, Bielik and all those guys were out and they had a lot of young players playing.

“And unfortunately, when you try and introduce too many young players at the same time, it can be a heavy burden to carry for them – particularly when things don’t go for them.

“So I think they lacked that experience, that know-how and I think what’s happened now is that they’ve got the majority of their players back.”

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