Wayne Rooney: Is this the end of sacked Birmingham City boss as a manager?

3 January 2024 0 By Total Football News
Wayne Rooney standing on the touchline when he was Birmingham City managerAt 83 days, Wayne Rooney is the shortest-serving Birmingham manager, in terms of time period, in their 132-year history

Wayne Rooney's farewell to Birmingham City made no attempt to hide the acute pain of what he regards as a premature sacking - but also contained a bold statement of intent about his managerial future.

Rooney still believes management is for him despite a shambolic 83-day reign at St Andrew's in a third crack at the role following spells in charge of Derby County and DC United in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Financial restrictions at Derby and DC United make definitive judgements on Rooney's work there difficult, but there is no such context about his time at Birmingham, which brought nine defeats and only two wins in a 15-game tenure. It was, by any measure, desperately bad.

It was a loveless, joyless time from day one when he was drafted in by new owners to replace the popular John Eustace, Blues dropping from sixth to 20th in his time at the club and the end coming with Rooney the target for abuse from his own supporters after the 3-0 loss at Leeds United.

So while Rooney has his sights set on "preparing" for his "next opportunity", it is hard at the moment to see who will actually present it to him.

Is Rooney's management future in doubt?

Rooney is only 38 and has been operating at football's sharp end since emerging as a 16-year-old at Everton. It has been his life, an all-consuming passion fuelled by the competitive fires of his youth in Liverpool's Croxteth district.

The smart money will be on Rooney itching for a return to the game before too long, but who will take the risk after his dismal failure at Birmingham City? And would it even be the sort of offer he would want to accept?

He clearly has ambition. In January 2022 he turned down the opportunity to be interviewed for the Everton post, believing the time was not right, hinting it was a job for further down the line. It may now be regarded as a narrow escape for both parties.

Rooney, to be brutal, can forget being offered any sort of high-profile Premier League post, while those with ambitions in the Championship will surely be put off by his Birmingham City experience. Would Rooney want to drop even further down the ladder to reignite his career once his time for reflection is over?

He has sampled work abroad in Washington but it is hard to see anywhere in Europe where Rooney could end up. Would he follow his great friend and former Everton colleague Duncan Ferguson, now at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, to Scotland?

If this is not to be the end for Rooney the manager, he may have to swallow a drop down the divisions or perhaps a journey to the Saudi Pro League, where his fellow scouser and another member of England's 'Golden Generation', Steven Gerrard, is currently struggling with Al-Ettifaq.

These are all imponderables in the aftermath of his sacking, but what is not in doubt is Rooney's reputation has suffered serious damage at Birmingham. Cast around for future options and they look in very short supply.

Rooney's desire to return is clear but, despite the name and reputation that attracted Birmingham, he may have to ditch any high expectations and effectively start the journey he talks about all over again.

Rooney the manager

Birmingham City was Rooney's biggest chance yet to show his management ability but, in football terms, his time at the club was catastrophic.

He was the man chosen by ambitious new owners to take Blues back into the Premier League. Birmingham chief executive Garry Cook, a driver behind his appointment, called it a "defining moment".

Cook was right. Just not in the way he had hoped.

The plan was for Rooney to build on Eustace's work, then get backing to push on in the January transfer window but he received, at best, a lukewarm reception from fans and his relationship with his players never developed.

As for the January window, it was barely open before he was out of the door.

He was publicly critical of Birmingham's players as the crisis deepened and even though he had experienced backroom help in former England defender Ashley Cole and ex-Manchester United team-mate John O'Shea, Rooney could not arrest the slide.

Why Rooney seemed so out of his depth will be a mystery to many of those who know him, with former Manchester United colleague Darren Fletcher previously singling him out as someone who would graduate from the great school at Old Trafford into management with ease.

Rooney has a sharp, imaginative, inquiring mind and many of those who saw his work at Derby talk about someone who was a calm, measured leader and frontman for the club during the crises of points deductions, also showing a sure touch in his dealings with players, a good and understanding listener.

One difference was he had the highly rated Liam Rosenior, now doing so well as Hull City manager, at his side.

This may be an area for improvement Rooney will ponder during his enforced exile from the game - but when he will get the chance to put his revised plans into practice must remain in serious doubt after his latest bruising brush with management.

Managerial struggles of 'Golden Generation'

Rooney is the latest member of that so-called generation of England players from the early 2000s to discover stellar on-field successes are not easily transferred into management.

Steven Gerrard is trying to rebuild his reputation in Saudi Arabia following his sacking by Aston Villa in October 2022 after less than a year, although what currency success there will carry for any future jobs is questionable. In Gerrard's defence, he did win Glasgow Rangers their first Scottish title in a decade before leaving for Villa Park.

Frank Lampard, one of Rooney's predecessors at Derby, is also currently out of work after being sacked by Chelsea, then suffering a miserable spell at Everton which also ended in dismissal. A return to Chelsea as interim manager last season brought only five points from nine Premier League games.

Gary Neville had a four-month spell as Valencia coach before being sacked in 2016. He is now a well-respected pundit, while brother Phil is in charge at MLS club Portland Timbers after being sacked by Inter Miami in 2023.

John Terry held a backroom role at Aston Villa until 2021, while central defensive partner Sol Campbell has not returned to management after roles at Macclesfield Town and Southend United between 2018 and 2020.

Ashley Cole, very well-regarded as a coach, departed Birmingham with Rooney, while Paul Scholes left Oldham Athletic after only 31 days in charge in 2019. He now also works as a pundit.

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