Rooney drama defines English football
Not many Englishmen alive today have ever witnessed England win “anything” in football first hand.
In fact, England’s last and only major title as a football nation, a sport they founded, dates back to 1966. Thanks to a controversial winning goal against fellow finalists, West Germany, they were crowned world cup champions on home soil that year.
Fifty years later the England and Manchester United captain, Wayne Rooney, is being singled out as a scapegoat for the club and country’s waning fortunes.
Not only was he booed by a large section of his own fans as they played at the weekend in a world cup 2018 qualifier against Malta, a game in which he captained his nation to a 2-0 victory, but many were calling for his international retirement. How could things have come this far for a barely 30-year-old Wayne Rooney?
Imagine being the all-time top scorer for your country and most-capped male outfield player, with 53 goals in 117 appearances; second of all time for your club; a Champion’s League winner; and still people say you haven’t fulfilled your potential and point fingers at you as a cause of your nation’s unachieved goals? How would you feel?
Wayne Rooney is 30 years old and many in England are calling for his head and international retirement, in a sport where, though a goalkeeper, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon is still captain and active at age 38.
The English blame Rooney for having only scored three tournament goals in 13 years, being only excellent when England take on relatively weaker teams and not decisive enough when the big games come along.
Is this fair or are the English refusing to face the truth that their inability to compete with the top football nations goes way further than Wayne Rooney?
Let’s not forget that the English also blame the influx of foreign players into their Premier League as the reason why they do not have better national team players. But they do not reject the billions of dollars that the foreign star players’ influx brings into their economic system.
Some English fans also blame the presence of too many top coaches in the Premier League as the foremost reason why the national team lacks a world-class English manager. Ignoring the fact that each time British coaches, outside of Alex Ferguson, have managed the top English club sides in recent decades it’s been crowned with relatively poor results.
Wayne Rooney is of course not at his best now and many believe that he has always been overrated, as some compare him with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar jr, which is unfair as these expectations and comparisons have not been the handwork of the player himself but those of other fellow Englishmen, trying to promote compatriots and their nation as being up there with the world’s best.
Former English manager Sam Allardyce, when quizzed on the wayward playing style of the player on his only managed match to date, answered that Wayne Rooney could play wherever he wanted for his country.
How do you then blame Rooney, a supposed striker, for his positioning deep as a defensive midfielder under Allardyce, or any other coach at the national team, when modern-day top football is now more defined on the pitch in order to succeed?
Wayne Rooney, in my opinion, was at his best in the 2007/2008 football season, winning the Champion’s League with Manchester United, but playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs in the attack line. He showed devastating pace, hunger and scored some exceptional goals playing beside Ronaldo. Today, when you watch Rooney, that all-important devastating pace in modern football attack seems gone.
This has prompted his transition now to a midfield role. But where I feel most fans are unhappy with Rooney is that he sometimes comes deep into the defensive midfield role for his team and this leaves him with so many metres to cover to the opposing goal.
Having said all the above, I feel it is nearly criminal to treat a player who has served his nation non-stop for 13 years the way Rooney is being treated. Booed by your own fans at home as a captain is just bordering on outright ungratefulness.
Wayne Rooney is definitely far from his best and, if you remember, Sir Alex Fergusson tried to offload him already way back in his last season as Man United manager because he felt he had become “too comfortable” at Man United. At 30 years old he still has a lot to give to football but maybe not England.
He, however, needs to find a way to get hungry again and hopefully, with a manager that will give him defined and specific duties, that will help him shine again.
I, however, feel this unfair scapegoating of Wayne Rooney reveals a lot of what is wrong with the culture of English football and not necessarily what is wrong with Rooney.
If a nation puts all its hopes of success on one man playing always at 100 percent and performing miracles to win titles, then that nation is probably not as good as they pretend to be.
Football is not an individual sport and needs a good, talented playing team and another team behind the playing team to be world beaters.