Wayne Rooney has targeted a return to the Premier League with Birmingham City after his appointment as manager.
Rooney was named Birmingham’s new boss on a three-and-a-half-year deal on Wednesday.
Former Manchester United and England striker Rooney, who left his role as head coach of DC United by mutual consent on Sunday after they missed out on the MLS Cup play-offs, replaces John Eustace at St Andrew’s after he was sacked on Monday despite the club sitting sixth in the Championship following back-to-back wins.
Speaking in his first press conference as Blues boss, Rooney insisted promotion back to the Premier League is his and the club’s main target after a 12-year absence from the top flight.
“The goal for the club and myself is to get this club back to the Premier League,” Rooney said.
“There is a lot of work to be done throughout the football club but the Premier League is where we want to get to.
“It’s an ambition of mine and it is an ambition of the club’s, and we are putting everything in place to make sure we do that in the near future.”
‘Pressure nothing new to me’
Rooney, after difficult times as manager of Derby County and a less-than-successful period in charge of DC United, is now looking forward to the challenge of keeping Birmingham near the top of the Championship.
Eustace guided the team into sixth place in the table after they claimed six points and scored seven goals in their last two matches.
When asked about taking over a club in a good position, Rooney said: “It’s more pressure as well, which I love. I love the fact we are in a good position. I love the challenge and I love the pressure of it, and that’s something I’ve dealt with since I was a young kid coming through at 16.
Wayne Rooney’s managerial record:
Derby: November 2020 – June 2022
P85 W24 D22 L29 – 28 per cent win ratio
DC United: July 2022 – October 2023
P53 W14 D13 L26 – 26 per cent win ratio
“It’s nothing new to me, but it might be new to some of the players.
“My job is to make sure I get them ready for that and really get them ready to go out and be successful.
“We do have tough games coming up which I can’t wait to go into, and I can’t wait to get the team out on the training pitch, get them working on how I want them to play, but also get the mentality and the mindset right to really be consistent in this league.
“It’s so important to be consistent in the Championship and I’ll de everything I can to make sure we do that.”
‘Birmingham’s ambition excites me’
Rooney returns to England after 15 months with DC United, who were mathematically eliminated from play-off contention this season despite Sunday’s win over New York City.
The former England captain is delighted to be back in English football and sees Birmingham as a perfect fit for his ambition.
He said: “To get back into English football is great.
“It’s what I’ve wanted to do and I’ve had opportunities over the last four to six weeks from other clubs to do that.
“But since speaking to Birmingham and seeing the ambitions of the club, where they want to go and where they want to get to, that excited me.
“I want to be successful and it’s clear the club want to be successful. Everything we spoke about was very similar.
“It was a really easy decision once I spoke to the club and I’m excited to get going. I’m happy to be back and looking forward to the first game.
“We have got a lot of work to do. I had my first training session with the players and it will be a bit different to what they are used to, but it’s an exciting time and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”
‘We’ve built a club that is prepared to support the manager’
Birmingham City CEO Garry Cook:
“Ambition is always determined by how much you are willing to put on the table.
“Unfortunately, there are rules and regulations that prevent some of that, and they are well documented and every league in the world is confronting the same challenge.
“What I think we’ve done is built an organisation that is prepared to support the manager and be very astute in our recruitment process.
“But also, at the same time, ensure we are building the infrastructure to support the team, the facilities to support the team, and the owners are investing millions in that area.
“When it comes to the players and the team, that’s clearly going to be Wayne and (technical director) Craig Gardner determining what that should look like.
“But you have to grow your revenues. That’s a pre-emptive issue in football. If you don’t grow revenues then you are going to limit your capability to succeed.”
October 21: Middlesbrough vs Birmingham – kick-off 3pm
October 25: Birmingham vs Hull – kick-off 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Football Red Button
October 28: Southampton vs Birmingham – kick-off 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football
November 4: Birmingham vs Ipswich – kick-off 3pm
November 11: Sunderland vs Birmingham – kick-off 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football
November 25: Birmingham vs Sheffield Wednesday – kick-off 3pm
Rooney still has it all to prove in management
Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam:
“Wayne Rooney gained plenty of plaudits for his work at Derby County. In his first managerial role he was right up against it, dealing with administration, a 21-point deduction, and a squad hardly worthy of the Championship made up of academy graduates and free transfers.
“The Derby fans were won over by his commitment, open communication and battling style, and it’s worth noting that they picked up enough points in his one full campaign in charge to finish 17th. To keep them in the hunt for safety until mid-April was near enough a miraculous effort.
“It is one thing, however, to stand up and out when you are facing every type of adversity football can throw at you, it is another altogether to take a club moving in the right direction at last further up the Championship tree.
“And speaking of trees, Rooney hardly pulled any of them up in his spell at DC United. Were he not the name he is, it is hard to imagine anything on his managerial CV being enough to convince the new Birmingham owners that he has earned the chance to replace John Eustace at St Andrew’s.
“The 37-year-old still has plenty to prove.”
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:
“Wayne Rooney and Birmingham City are the perfect pairing right now. Both at a crucial crossroads, and each having big ambitions for the future.
“The sacking of John Eustace has been explained by Birmingham’s chief executive, Garry Cook, who says the previous head coach was “misaligned” with the club’s leadership team, on a number of key points.
“Cook is trying to keep the Birmingham support on-side, knowing the sacking is unpopular with a significant proportion of them, who don’t see Rooney – who has only taken charge of struggling Derby County so far in England – as a managerial upgrade.
“After all, under Eustace, Birmingham reached sixth in the Championship, and have taken six points and scored seven goals in their last two Championship matches. A harsh sacking, for sure.
“But when you realise that the plan to recruit Rooney stretches back several weeks – when Blues took only one point from three matches against Preston, QPR and Norwich – Birmingham’s bosses think it is easier to justify and explain their decision.
“It was inevitable. Eustace knew it. New club owners like to bring in their own people in key positions.
“And when you look at the mission statement of owner Tom Wagner when his Knighthead Capital Management group bought Birmingham three months ago, the recruitment of Rooney should come as no surprise.”