WHEN Neil Warnock took up his first managerial post at Gainsborough Trinity in 1980, he freely admits that his side’s results helped determined whether or not he could afford to pay his mortgage. More than four decades on, and it is safe to assume managerial novice Wayne Rooney is not harbouring the same concerns as he prepares to lead Derby County into action against Warnock’s Middlesbrough at Pride Park this afternoon.

Unlike Warnock, who was a journeyman winger with the likes of Hartlepool United and York City prior to moving into management, Rooney will forever be remembered as one of the world’s greatest players. Financially, he need never do another day’s work in his life.

Yet by accepting a managerial position with a club battling against relegation in the bottom half of the Championship, Rooney has taken on his own pressures. As Frank Lampard has learned to his cost at Chelsea, a garlanded playing career is no protection against the ferocious glare of the managerial spotlight. Rooney could have chosen a much easier path at the end of his playing days. Warnock, for one, is delighted and impressed that he didn’t.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said the Boro boss. “I’ve got a lot of time for what Wayne’s done, and also for people like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard too. I know Wayne Rooney’s on big money, and he’ll have sponsorship deals and all sorts, but it would be easy for him to say, ‘I don’t need football management’ and go and do something else.

“He doesn’t need the hassle, but I think it’s fabulous that he wants to do it. Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard – we need English lads and young English coaches coming into the game.

“They probably haven’t got the pressure that other young managers have got because of their financial situation, but the pressure for them is that their reputations are at stake. They’ve got big reputations and they want to do well to show people how good they are. I think it’s great, me.”

Rooney’s final game as a player turned out to be Derby’s 3-0 defeat at the Riverside in late November, and even though the Rams were completely outplayed, the former England skipper still caught the eye in a deep-lying midfield role.

That game was his 768th as a senior club player, and he will be remembered as one of his country’s all-time greats. No one has scored more goals in an England shirt, and Warnock feels Rooney should be celebrated as a national treasure.

“What a player,” he said. “We played them (Manchester United) at Bramall Lane and I thought we did ever so well, but then he did two or three magical things from nowhere and the game had gone.

“I think he’s been an incredible player for England. It’s hard at that level because everyone is after a story and it doesn’t take much to get on the wrong side of things. But on the pitch, I think Wayne’s been a revelation for English football, an absolute credit. I’m glad he’s come into management. If they don’t give it a try, we don’t know, and we want these young managers to have a go.”

One of Rooney’s first moves as a manager was to sign Patrick Roberts in January after he had been released from his loan spell with Boro.

Roberts is able to start against the Teessiders this afternoon, and while he repeatedly left him on the bench in the first half of the season, Warnock expects the 21-year-old to be a success with Derby.

“I apologised to him for it not working out,” he said. “I just couldn’t get him in the team in a position where I didn’t think we had a better alternative. We tried it on two or three occasions, but it never quite came off.

“Derby play a different style, which will suit him, and he’ll get a lot more of the ball in areas he’ll like. I think it’ll be a good move for him. I hope he doesn’t do great against us, but I never had a problem with him at all. It just didn’t work out, so we felt we could use that wage to bring somebody else in.

"I don't think he'll especially feel he has a point to prove to us - I think every time Patrick goes on the pitch he feels he has a point to prove. I just think he's that type of lad."