Derby County v Barnsley - Wayne Rooney factor not the main concern for buoyant Tykes

MOTIVATION will not be in short supply for Alex Mowatt and his Barnsley team-mates when they take on Derby County at Pride Park today.

Barnsley's Alex Mowatt. Picture: Simon Hulme.

For Mowatt, the prospect of rubbing shoulders with a bonafide great of the game in former England, Manchester United and Everton legend Wayne Rooney, earmarked for his Rams bow tonight, is an enticing one.

Rooney, almost three years on from surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton as Manchester United’s greatest goalscorer, is expected to make his Derby debut after the club submitted the relevant paperwork to the Football Association and EFL at midnight on Tuesday to formally register him when the transfer window reopened yesterday.

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But for Barnsley, Rooney-mania is a side-show to the key business of injecting further momentum into their quest to escape relegation and dragging teams above them into the equation.

One of them is Derby, with the Reds able to move within six points of them with victory today.

Barnsley’s last visit to Derby proved a shattering one with the Reds consigned to League One following a 4-1 loss to the Rams on the final day of the 2017-18 campaign, with head coach Jose Morais leaving within hours of the setback.

Remedying memories grim episode will provide a further stimulus for the Reds.

Mowatt said: “We have gone on a run and closed the gap, There is quite a lot of teams on those sorts of points you can look at, so we want to drag as many teams in as possible.

“We want to drag other teams in with us and climb the table, so we need to keep playing consistently and picking up points.”

On the Rooney factor, the midfielder added: “It’s a bit crazy to be playing against Wayne Rooney in the Championship, but it will be nice to challenge yourself against the best.

“It will give them a massive boost, playing with a top player; he will improve their team massively and improve everyone around him, so you’ve got to look at them as a better side with him in there.”

A haul of 12 points from seven matches has given Barnsley hope in their mission to stave off the drop and head coach Gerhard Struber has detected a change of mentality in his young squad.

He said: “When we concentrate on our game style and have this mentality from the last games, it’s not so easy now to play against Barnsley.

“We have the mentality for winners. “This is what we want from the next games.”

Last six games: Derby LDLLDW; Barnsley LDWWDD.

Referee: D Whitestone (Northants).

Last time: Derby 4 Barnsley 1, May 6, 2018; Championship.