THE OLDEST manager in the Football League takes on the youngest tomorrow evening, but while Neil Warnock expects Wayne Rooney to be a huge managerial success, he has warned the former England skipper he will almost certainly have to hang up his boots sooner rather than later if he wants to succeed in the dugout.

In the wake of Phillip Cocu’s dismissal as Derby County manager earlier this month, Rooney was part of a four-man coaching team along with Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker that was charged with taking interim control of first-team matters.

Both Rosenior and Rooney have said they would like to be considered for a permanent managerial position, but as well as carrying out his coaching duties, Rooney has continued playing and was the on-field skipper during Derby’s 1-0 defeat to Bristol City on Saturday.

England’s all-time record goalscorer is expected to remain in the Rams’ starting line-up at the Riverside tomorrow, but even though he might boast extensive playing experience at the very highest level, Warnock has warned the 35-year-old it will be extremely difficult to continue combining management with a place in the first team if he is offered a permanent position in the dug-out.

“Short term, I think he can do it (combine the two),” said Warnock. “But I think if he wants to go into it properly (that would be different). Wayne has played right at the very top. He’s been one of our greatest players – I’ve loved watching him – and when you see someone like that, I think they will know when it’s time (to stop playing).

“I think he’ll find in the next few months, if he’s given the job, that it’s absorbing off the field. It’s very difficult to maintain your fitness with all that’s going off behind the scenes. Even as a young manager, I remember being exhausted certain days, and it was nothing to do with football. It was just behind the scenes. It’s a difficult one for him, but I’m sure he’ll have good people working with him, and they’ll decide.”

Derby is proving to be a breeding ground for young managerial talent, with Frank Lampard having spent a season in charge at the IPro Stadium before moving on to Chelsea.

With Steven Gerrard also making a name for himself at Rangers, a generation of young English managers is emerging, and Warnock is delighted to see some of the country’s leading players heading into management rather than opting for the less high-pressured option of television punditry.

“I think it’s good,” said the Boro boss. “Wayne’s not taken any qualifications, so it must have just come to him in the last 18 months really.

“But when you’ve had so much experience, I think it’s quite natural to then use that experience to your advantage. The only thing is, it is a lot different managing a club than it is playing, or even being a player-coach. When you have to make the decisions yourself, it becomes far more difficult. It’s something that even Wayne probably hasn’t been accustomed to.”

This evening’s game affords Middlesbrough an immediate opportunity to get over the disappointment of Saturday’s narrow defeat to Norwich City, a reverse that ended a ten-game unbeaten run.

Since watching his side lose to Norwich, Warnock has secured the services of Jonny Howson on a new two-year deal, with the midfielder following Djed Spence and Anfernee Dijksteel to become the third senior player to sign a new contract in the last few weeks. Having taken over a club that had a host of first-team squad members in the final weeks of their respective deals, Warnock is determined not to allow his employers to get themselves into such a difficult position again, and is delighted to be making such rapid headway.

“You have to plan,” he said. “At clubs I’ve been at in the past, there’s been a lot of stupidity at times. I’ve had chairmen say to me, ‘Why do we need to give him a new contract, he’s got two more years?’ They haven’t understood he needed a new contract as a lift. You have to look further ahead and (tie down) the players you think you’re going to have success with.

“I’ve always thought Jonny was a half-decent player, but I didn’t really think he’d be inspirational like he is. To me, he’s just got better and better. Seeing him at close quarters, I don’t think there’s a better player in midfield at the moment.”

Middlesbrough (3-4-3): Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Spence, Howson, Saville, Bola; Tavernier, Assombalonga, Roberts.