Curtis Davies has revealed how the Derby players thought the club signing Wayne Rooney was a joke.
Manchester United and England record goalscorer Rooney joined the Championship club in January.
He was signed from MLS side DC United as a player-coach, taking his first steps towards life after his playing career.
Davies told talkSPORT: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season, to be honest. Wayne signing was massive. When we first saw it on the news we thought it was a wind up.
“Him signing was massive. He’s obviously come here for different reasons. He wants to start his coaching career with the club as well.
“That’s helped us to get him in but the job he’s done on the pitch has been fantastic and he’s been what you expect from Wayne Rooney.
“He’s been top quality and he’s been using it both for himself and also for the young lads to help them come through too.”
The Derby defender, 35, also backed Rooney to succeed and become a top manager.
“He’s definitely got the way about him. I’ve not been in any sessions with him to know what his coaching is like but I know good managers can also be good coaches.
“I can see it in him, obviously he’s got a wealth of experience and played at the very top level, captained England, captained Manchester United, won everything so at worst he can command the respect of any player, which is what you need as a manager when you are starting out.”
Derby have endured a topsy-turvy season following their defeat in the Championship play-off final last season.
Manager Frank Lampard left while star loanee players Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori returned to Chelsea.
The club were then rocked by an incident earlier in the season when Richard Keogh, Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were involved in a car crash following a boozy night out.
Keogh, who sustained a serious knee injury, was later sacked by the club while Lawrence and Bennett admitted drink-driving.
Despite their problems, they remain just five points off the play-off places when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Davies said the club is doing everything to get back to the top flight.
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He added: “The last time Derby did get promoted it was to the detriment of me when they beat my West Brom side in the 2007 play-offs.
“It’s a strange thing. People don’t realise how big a club Derby is until they step into it and the city. It’s massive to the fans there.
“Unfortunately, most years over the last 10 years we’ve got to play-offs or got into the position of play-offs and failed but we are trying our hardest to get back to the Premier League where our fans feel we belong.
“Every other team is trying to do that as well. It’s not a given and you have to do your job and make sure you get over the line.”