Wayne Rooney is a fighter but he and his staff have been let down by greedy Derby County owners - Sue Smith

It will be strange for Derby County at Bramall Lane this afternoon, playing for the first time since it was confirmed they have been docked 12 points for going into adminstration. Another deduction could follow over financial fair play (FFP) rules.

They will be hard-pushed to avoid relegation.

At least their situation is not as bad as ours at Doncaster Rovers Belles, where we were relegated one match into the Women’s Super League season because Manchester City, fourth in the division below, met the criteria for a 2014 franchise and we did not.

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I felt for Derby’s players. Curtis Davies told us on Tuesday’s Sky Soccer Special he only found out when a team-mate mentioned it in their WhatsApp group and he turned on Sky Sports News.

Derby County manager Wayne Rooney. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

But the players and coaches will get jobs elsewhere and their contracts will protect them. It is the security guards, the cook, the kit man, the groundsman and so on who deserve most sympathy. They are the heart of their clubs.

Derby’s players deserve huge credit for beating Stoke City last weekend, and for their start to the season generally. Manager Wayne Rooney has identified a good group of players and a good mix between youngsters just happy to be in the Championship and experienced players to lead them.

The probably adopted a bit of a siege mentality. Maybe the pressure is off a little bit. My concern is if they get an FFP punishment on top, can they pick themselves up again?

If there are more punishments, I would want them now. The worst thing would be to drag it out so long it comes next season.

Wayne Rooney manager of Derby County congratulates Kacper Lopata of Sheffield Utd during the Carabao Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. (Picture: Alistair Langham / Sportimage)

There was a seige mentality at Doncaster too but it did not translate into results. We finished bottom.

I can get up for a charity game but I wonder if as a team we had the collective fight we needed.

Because we finished bottom, nobody questioned our relegation as much but it was a great pity because the Belles had so much history. Already City had signed Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze, and there is no way Doncaster can compete with a club with their resources properly getting behind its women’s team.

There was one game we were never going to lose, though – City at home in the cup the next season. If we did not win another game all season, we had to win that one. We did, 2-1.

Sue Smith in her Doncaster Rovers Belles days. (Picture: Liz Mockler)

But in 2013 it was hard knowing whatever happened we were going down.

That is the positive for Derby. I do not think they will stay up but there is a glimmer of hope. As players they will think they can and Rooney has always been a fighter.

Derby have been really badly run, desperate to get into the Premier League they have overspent. The last full set of accounts (for 2018-19), show half the Championship clubs spent more on wages than they brought in as income. Sheffield Wednesday paid the price last season, relegated after an FFP penalty.

As fans we all want more when it comes to signings but owners cannot listen to the outside noise. Mel Morris did, but the rules should have stopped it reaching this point.