Former Derby County manager Gary Rowett has told the News at Den he had the chance to join Stoke City in January 2018 but he opted to remain at Pride Park.
Rowett will return to Pride Park this weekend in charge of league rivals Millwall.
It will be the first time the former Rams fullback returns to the club after controversially leaving them in the summer of 2018 for Stoke after their relegation to the Championship.
But Rowett says he could have left Derby sooner. He claims the chance to join Stoke six months earlier was on offer, but he stayed as he wanted promotion with the Rams.
I had an opportunity potentially in the January to join [Stoke] in the Premier League. It wasn’t something I saw as the right thing to do because we were second in the league. We were building something and I was quite excited by it. It’s my local club that I’ve got a lot of history with. It was a really difficult decision to leave. The decision, really, was based on that I didn’t feel that I could carry out the plan that was put in front of me. The plan we spoke about for the following season was really difficult.
Gary Rowett spent just over a year at Derby County:
Rowett initially joined Derby in the spring of 2017 following Steve McClaren’s exit.
The former Birmingham City manager was an initial hit with the Rams. While the football wasn’t great, he had Derby in second position in the table come January 2018.
A poor run of form towards the end of the season, however, saw the Rams ultimately finish in sixth. They were beaten in the playoffs semi-finals by Fulham over two legs.
Rowett then shocked Derby supporters by leaving the club for Stoke. It was a move which came as a surprise, especially as the Potters were deemed a direct promotion rival.
Rowett’s spell at the Bet365 Stadium didn’t go as planned. He was sacked after just nine months, while Derby again finished sixth under his successor Frank Lampard.