The Rams have been beset by one off-field problem after another, but an end could be in sight with a possible deduction being handed down
Derby County’s long-running legal wrangle with the EFL may finally have an end in sight.
It was reported earlier this week that the Rams were close to agreeing on a points deduction after breaching spending rules.
It could be as high as a 12-point punishment, with nine handed down this term and three suspended. As it stands, that would put County on minus-2 points and send them bottom of the Championship table.
Derby were initially charged in early 2020 and subsequently cleared. The EFL then appealed part of the charge, resulting in a £100,000 fine this summer. They were also told to re-submit three years’ worth of accounts.
Spare a thought for manager Wayne Rooney in all of this.
He’s not even been in the role a year and has already experienced more than some managers witness during a decade in the dugout.
It was a tough assignment to keep them up last season, but they just about did it.
However, their only saving grace a bonkers last-day decider with drop rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
That match finished 3-3 – a result which saved the Rams by the skin of their teeth and sent the Owls down. But had Darren Moore’s side not been handicapped by a six-point penalty then they would have stayed up at Derby’s expense.
Rooney spoke directly after that game, saying the club could not afford to waste time in planning for next season and that they should not find themselves in a similar position again.
But that is exactly what has transpired.
If anything, Rooney’s squad is weaker now than it was last season.
The transfer embargo that was passed down by the EFL meant only free agents and loans could be sanctioned.
Add in the exit of a clutch of experienced pros and the fact that two of their better players, Krystian Bielik and Colin Kazim-Richards, are sidelined by injury and it has significantly weakened Rooney’s options.
His blend of existing players, free transfers and kids have done more than fine so far this season with seven points on the board.
But they just do not have enough strength in depth or firepower in the ranks.
The last time they scored more than once in a league game was that aforementioned last-day decider in May, but that is the only time they’ve done so in the last 14 Championship contests.
Their goals-scored-in-each-game tally reads like binary code.
This is hardly a new problem either.
Last season they were just as toothless in front of goal and it took them until December 16 – their 19th league game of the campaign – to notch twice in a game.
Speaking to the media on Friday lunchtime, ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Stoke City, Rooney straight-batted the question on the potential deduction.
“All we can do is focus on the games,” he said.
“The players have been excellent in training and with the work they are putting into games.”
Despite those comments, Sky Sports suggest that Rooney and his squad “feel they would have time to react, and potentially recover”.
That is certainly wishful thinking.
Despite their decent start to this season, they have won just two of their last 22 league games.
Extrapolated over a season and that is bottom-of-the-table form – by some distance.
With that in mind, the theory that suddenly being plunged into a negative points tally will somehow galvanise a group already low on confidence seems extremely fanciful.
Some have suggested that taking the punishment now will allow Rooney to strengthen in January, as it could potentially pave the way for the embargo to be lifted.
Perhaps so. But by then, it could be far too late to make any difference.
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