Derby County

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
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Who will get promoted to the Premier League? Your Championship primer

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The Football League Championship returns on Saturday, as Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion look to keep hold of their automatic promotion places.

It won’t be easy.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man Utd recap | JPW’s 3 Things ]

Here is your guide to the final nine matchdays of the season for England’s second tier.

The top two

Marcelo Bielsa’s Peacocks and Slaven Bilic’s Baggies have 7- and 6-point cushions on third place with nine matches to go, a congested fixture list ready to tax the benches of all of the sides.

The playoff race

Third through sixth in the Championship will contest the playoffs for the third promotion spot to the Premier League.

Third-place Fulham will learn a lot about whether it’s in the race for automatic promotion or just a playoff probability within one week’s time. The Cottagers host fourth-place Brentford at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and go to Leeds one week later.

Fulham has 64 points, six back of second place and nine clear of seventh place. It would be very surprising if the Londoners didn’t keep hold of a playoff spot.

Brentford (60) and Nottingham Forest (60) have five-point advantages on seventh, nice but not too comfortable, while Preston North End’s one-point-above-sixth-place footing is uneven.

Six teams are within two wins of Preston’s 56 points. Seventh-place Bristol City has 55, Millwall and Cardiff City have 54, Blackburn and Swansea City have 53, Derby County has 51, and QPR’s on 50.

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
Rooney’s Rams are six points behind the playoff places (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Americans Abroad

Speaking of QPR, USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron is a fixture for Mark Warburton’s London side. The 34-year-old has played 28 times this season.

Derby County has seen a fine season out of Duane Holmes, who has three goals and three assists. Not American, but ex-DC United man Wayne Rooney is Holmes’ teammate.

No American has played more Championship minutes than Fulham’s Tim Ream (3142). Next up are Wigan’s Antonee Robinson (2587) and Hull City’s Eric Lichaj (2546).

Matt Miazga is handling center back duties for Reading, while Cameron Carter-Vickers’ latest loan stint at Luton Town has gone well individually.

Luca De La Torre (Fulham) has seen neglible minutes this season.

English-born MLS and NCAA star Jack Harrison is with Leeds.

Manchester United academy product Jack Harrison of Leeds United went to school at Wake Forest before playing for NYCFC in Major League Soccer (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images).

The relegation scrap

Three clubs will go down to League One next season. Two of the three teams in the bottom three will need a massive change in fortunes to avoid that fate.

Barnsley is seven points back of 21st and Luton Town sits six points back of safety.

Charlton Athletic is currently in 22nd with 39 points, but it can look to a single win as chance to move ahead of any of the five sides ahead of it (depending on how goal differential goes).

Hull City, Wigan Athletic, and Middlesbrough are just two points above the drop zone, while Stoke City and Huddersfield Town have three-point distances above the drop.

Charlton can pass Hull with a win at the KC Stadium on Saturday, though it’s only other chance to affect a fellow struggler is July 18 versus Wigan.

This week’s schedule

Fulham v. Brentford — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Middlesbrough v. Swansea City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Millwall v. Derby County — 8 a.m. ET Saturday
West Brom v. Birmingham City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Huddersfield Town v. Wigan Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Hull City v. Charlton Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Sheffield Wednesday v. Nottingham Forest — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Luton Town v. Preston North End –10 a.m. ET Saturday
QPR v. Barnsley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Reading v. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Blackburn Rovers v. Bristol City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Cardiff City v. Leeds United — 7 a.m. ET Sunday

Rooney pens op-ed on pay cut controversy, calls it a ‘disgrace’

Wayne Rooney
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There a few more resonant voices amongst active English players than Derby County captain Wayne Rooney.

A legend from his time with England and Manchester United, the Everton product carries a weight to which most players can only aspire.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Now the 34-year-old is lending his voice to the current controversy regarding players taking pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, with the government even making statements regarding the perceived necessity of sacrifice.

The Professional Footballers Association has weighed in a few times. Now, Rooney wrote a column that appeared in The Times (subscription required) on Sunday, in which he made several points on the issue.

“The first thing to say is that if Derby County needed me to take a pay cut to save the club I would understand and look to support them in whatever way I could. And if the government approached me to help support nurses financially or buy ventilators I’d be proud to do so — as long as I knew where the money was going.”

But Rooney says the story is more than simply foregoing wages in order to keep non-playing staff on the books or from going on furlough.

He says the government has made the players “easy targets” and asks why this process needs to play out in the public eye, saying that the players have been in the process of figuring out the best way to contribute via wages.

Rooney also says that Health Secretary Matt Hancock is trying to use Premier League players as a distraction to the English government’s actions during the pandemic. From Sky Sports:

“I’m in a position where I could give something up. Not every footballer is in the same position. Yet suddenly the whole profession has been put on the spot with a demand for 30 per cent pay cuts across the board. Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?

“How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. He (Hancock) was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes. Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his government’s handling of this pandemic?”

Report: American billionaire in talks with Derby County

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American billionaire Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, is in advanced talks with Derby County.

Dell, 55, is said to have a net worth of $31.2 billion and is discussing investment in the English Championship club with owner Mel Morris. Derby were previously owned by a combination of Morris and an American investment group

Per the report from The Telegraph the Texas businessman is keen to invest and Derby’s current owner Morris has been ‘seeking additional funding for over two years and was previously in talks with Henry Gabay, a London-based businessman, but a deal has stalled due to a number of factors including the sacking of former club captain Richard Keogh and the English Football League charge.’

An English Football League investigation is currently looking into the deal which allowed  Derby’s current owner Morris to buy their Pride Park stadium as the EFL state Derby “recorded losses in excess of the permitted amounts provided for in EFL regulations for the three-year period ending 30 June 2018.”

The Rams have come close to promotion back to the Premier League on many occasions over the last decade but have come up short in the playoffs time and time again as they lost in the final to Aston Villa last season under Frank Lampard‘s tutelage.

With legendary Dutch midfield Phillip Cocu currently their manager they sit six points off the playoffs with nine games of the season to go and since Wayne Rooney‘s arrival in January they’ve surged up the table.

Dell will obviously invest in Derby with possible Premier League promotion in mind as his investment would be a lot lower initially and if Derby were able to sneak into the playoffs this season and seal promotion, a cash windfall of over $190 million would arrive.

Rooney proposes wintry change to help seasons delayed by coronavirus

Wayne Rooney
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Derby County captain Wayne Rooney says players will be happy to play it extra safe when it comes to the coronavirus’ effect on their seasons.

Rooney says there’s a solution for everything, and that the Premier League season could find resolution in the calendar thanks to the winter World Cup scheduled for 2022.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

While of course theoretical and requiring developments in the treatment and control of the virus, Rooney says European seasons could finish by September

“The next World Cup is in November and December 2022, so you could actually use this situation as an opportunity and say we’re going to finish the 2019-20 season later this year, then prepare for 2022 by having the next two seasons starting in winter.”

There’s a lot of common sense to Rooney’s proposal on the surface level, though obviously there are myriad contractual and legal avenues that may make it improbable.

The big question would be what to do after that 2022 World Cup, as waiting from January to August to start a new season would be a bit wild. Maybe each successive season would change by one month until it reached the traditional start date?

And, honestly, it’s intriguing to wonder if European football adopting a “warmer weather” schedule and international football hosting its events in the Fall would improve an already terrific thing.

Rooney was also critical of the delays in putting Football League matches on hold, saying players were watching other sports close down and unable to focus on their personal coronavirus concerns.

He claimed it “almost” felt like footballers were being treated “like guinea pigs.”

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Solskjaer on Ighalo, Rooney, Man Utd win: ‘Everyone loves Wayne’

Manchester United
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Manchester United will look to stretch its unbeaten run to 10 matches when it hosts Manchester City in what should be a scintillating derby on Sunday.

The Red Devils hit nine matches on Thursday when they eliminated old pal Wayne Rooney and Derby County from the FA Cup with a 3-0 win at Pride Park.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was thrilled with the performances of striker Odion Ighalo and rare goal scorer  Luke Shaw in the win.

For Ighalo, it’s three goals in two starts for United after a trio of goal-free substitute appearances. Here’s Solskjaer, via the BBC:

“When you get strikers in you want them to be happy and confident. He has come in here and of course we still have a few injuries and it is great for us to have Odion to call upon. He is a different striker for us and scores some good goals, there is not many who could dig that one out for his first. We have a team of good players.”

The striker says he’s feeling good around Old Trafford, and isn’t bothered by any odd thoughts regarding his return to the Premier League from the Chinese Super League.

“As long as my team-mates believe in me, the boss believes in me and the fans believe in me, just have to keep going. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Rooney nearly got on the score sheet with a technical marvel of a free kick in stoppage time, but Sergio Romero made an even better play to slap the ball over the bar.

Solskjaer and Rooney were teammates at Old Trafford for a few seasons, and there’s mutual appreciation.

“Everyone loves Wayne, all the supporters at Manchester United appreciate what he did,” Solskjaer said. “He played well. He shows class and sometimes he has too much time on the ball for my liking.”

Rooney was quite good on the day. The Derby County captain completed 11 of 15 long balls while connecting on 88 percent of his passes. He had five key passes, an interception, a blocked shot, two tackles, and a clearance (via Sofascore).