The past two weeks have been filled with speculation over who will fill the vacant Everton managers position. Wayne Rooney is no longer in the running.
A rollercoaster of names has been linked with the move. From Jose Mourinho to Vitor Pereira, to Frank Lampard and Fabio Cannavaro. It's an intriguing, if not slightly underwhelming set of candidates.
That might appear to be harsh on some of those rumoured but it's clear from Everton's search so far that one name doesn't stand out. The latest reports suggest Pereira, Lampard, and Duncan Ferguson have made the final cut.
Many have come out in support of former Toffee Wayne Rooney getting the nod. The Derby County boss has put in an admirable shift at Pride Park, overseeing a club in dire financial circumstances at the bottom of the Championship.
Rooney's Derby Adventure
Since Wayne Rooney took over in January of last year, he staged a late rally to help save them from relegation. Derby faced a transfer embargo over the summer and suffered from a 21-point deduction for the 2021/2022 season.
Without the deduction, Derby would be sitting in fifteenth, three points off tenth place. It's remarkable in itself that they are only second from bottom, with Championship strugglers Barnsley sharing a fourteen-point tally.
It's clear Rooney has an attachment to the current regime at Derby, at least to the fans, the staff, and the players. It's unlikely owner Mel Morris and Rooney are the best of friends given the current circumstances but they're making things work.
🗣 "Staff will lose their jobs which is heartbreaking. They've got mortgages, bills to pay, it's horrendous and I will do everything I can to help the staff"
Wayne Rooney's emotional post-match interview following Derby County's win after a difficult 24 hours for the club pic.twitter.com/u9DSCoRLam
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 18, 2021
Derby have a month to prove that they can sustain themselves financially to the EFL. With more young talent leaving the club as the January transfer window draws to a close, it's a real do-or-die situation for Rooney at Derby.
That's why the speculation for a return to Goodison Park could not have come at a worse time. With plenty on his plate, Rooney appears to be too committed to the cause, especially to give everything up midway through the season.
Distancing Himself From The Job
"I've got a job here to do at Derby County which is an important job to me," Rooney told the media during a typical Friday press conference. "Of course, it was a very difficult decision for me," he added.
"I believe that I will be a Premier League manager and I believe I'm ready for that 100 percent, and if that is with Everton one day in the future that'd be absolutely great." It's an intriguing assessment of the situation.
Rooney acknowledged that Everton had approached him. This was likely last week or a few days ago. His prolonged silence on the matter didn't help the growing speculation in associating his name with the vacant position.
Nonetheless, it's likely the former Everton and Manchester United striker took his time over making a decision. From his point of view, it sounded like he was too far into the Derby project to leave at the current stage of their survival challenge.
What might be overlooked is what Rooney could have faced if he took up the position. Everton fans are up in arms with the club owner, the board and are growing tired of the mismanagement of transfers and club personnel.
Rooney's Everton History
While Rooney's homecoming in 2017 felt like an extension of an olive branch of sorts, there's still a level of distrust from Everton fans since he left the club as a teenager. It was a harrowing blow to the Goodison Park faithful.
It wasn't a surprise to see Rooney tapped up by a club with more resources, more drawing power, and more titles. It was the handling of the transfer by agent Paul Stretford which saw graffiti protests similar to this week's artwork at Goodison Park.
Such a coincidence that the people who have been regularly spraying graffiti at Everton, since 2004, have such a weird way of doing their E. And that they always have a freelance photographer present quickly. pic.twitter.com/E4mejEAxG1
— Annie Eaves (@AnnieEaves) January 26, 2022
There's still an inherent level of skepticism over Rooney's general commitment. That might appear to be juvenile after his playing days, but Everton fans aren't a group to forget the history of the club.
Any manager that steps into the Everton role now is going to be under the looking glass. Rafa Benitez might have been scrutinised for past allegiances, but imagine the flack Rooney might have received for poor results?
The appointment of Benitez has shown that any football rivalry can be set aside. Everton fans placed their trust in Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright. Many thought they'd brought in the right man at the right time.
A Mistimed Approach
After that last experiment failed - the last thing the fans at Goodison Park need is another gamble. Rooney has been great at Derby so far, no doubt about it. There's little indication that would translate to a Premier League club.
If he can pull off a miracle and save Derby County from relegation, once again, then his managerial allure will only grow. Leaving Derby would only extend an invite to a slew of 'what ifs' if he had stayed and helped them stay up.
If you have Wayne Rooney's best interests at heart, he was right not to take the Everton job. For the majority of candidates, this is going to be a very pressurised environment to walk into and mediocre results won't cut it.
You have Everton's financial situation too. Their Financial Fair Play breaches left them with little to spend last summer. A slew of disappointing signings has left the squad thin and undesirable at best.
Now wasn't the right time for Rooney. Now probably isn't the right time for most. The door is open to come back in the future, but it appears Wayne Rooney has dodged a bullet with this one in every sense.