London (AFP) – Derby County manager Wayne Rooney has urged Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers, as well as the English Football League, to be “sensible” in their treatment of his struggling side after the cash-strapped club’s last-ditch 2-2 Championship draw at home to Birmingham on Sunday.
Both Middlesbrough, who also play in English football’s second-tier, and third division side Wycombe are mounting legal challenges arguing they have been disadvantaged in both economic and sporting terms by Derby breaking the EFL’s financial fair play rules in previous seasons.
Boro argue had Derby not done so they would have made the Championship play-offs for lucrative promotion to the Premier League.
Wycombe’s case is that they would have avoided relegation to League One last season.
Derby, who are just seven points from safety despite a 21-point deduction, went into administration in September.
This week the East Midlands club, twice champions of England in the 1970s, were given a one-month extension by the EFL to prove they have sufficient funds to complete the season.
An already emotional afternoon, which started with 1,000 fans marching from Derby city centre to a sold-out Pride Park ended with a spectacular stoppage-time equaliser through Rams substitute Krystian Bielik’s overhead kick.
Derby had been 2-0 down before Luke Plange reduced the deficit in the 87th minute. Lyle Taylor and Scott Hogan had scored for Birmingham.
– ‘Writing our own scripts’
England great Rooney, who on Friday announced he had turned down the opportunity to manage former club Everton, was delighted by the vocal support Derby received on Sunday.
“Things happen for a reason and — with there being no Premier League games today — it was a chance for us and the fans to show the country and the world what a massive club this is,” he said.
The former Manchester United and England captain added: “I also think Middlesbrough, Wycombe and the EFL have to be sensible now because people’s livelihoods are at stake and people have to come to the right decisions.”
Bielik’s brilliant strike came exactly a year to the day after the Poland defender suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
“As a team, I think we have been writing our own scripts this season and at half-time I said we’d score a goal in the 92nd minute today, whether it be the winner or an equaliser,” Rooney said.
“It was actually a bit later than that, but what a way it was for Krystian to come back. He then hurt his shoulder in the celebrations and it will be frustrating if we lose him again but, hopefully, it’s not too serious.”
In Sunday’s other Championship match, Cardiff eased their relegation fears by winning for the first time in seven games courtesy of a 2-1 victory at home to Nottingham Forest, a result that dented the play-off aspirations of Derby’s local rivals.
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