How the Wayne Rooney obsession could distract England

by Sam Peoples

In football, cynicism breeds disappointment. When it comes to England in major tournaments, disappointment has mostly been what’s left at the end.

Previously it was the ‘Golden Generation’. This time round, the distrust that followed Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard has focused almost exclusively on Wayne Rooney.

The fixation with Rooney has arguably overshadowed a build-up that has been refreshingly positive. England will begin their World Cup unburdened by high expectations, now the tag of ‘Golden Generation’ has been quietly left by the side of the road to Brazil.

The and promise of Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be exciting, if unpredictable. Rooney enjoyed a decent, if erratic, role against Ecuador and will certainly have a significant impact to make.

But while the cases for and against Rooney’s place in the starting lineup should and have been analysed in great detail, it is difficult to shake the feeling there is a simmering lack of belief in him that borders on outright scorn and distrust.

As Manchester United fans, we are familiar with this. Rooney’s flirtation with disloyalty have damaged his chances of ever being truly loved by the club’s supporters.

Paul Scholes, who has found the media voice he was so reluctant to use when he still played, was brutally honest when he said last month that Rooney may have passed his peak and might be “worn out”. It was enough to snap Rooney’s patience.

“[Scholes has] been a team-mate but he’s been away from the first team for a long time,” said Rooney.

“I’ve seen a lot of you [in the media] saying he’s coached me and been around the team but he hasn’t. I’m not really going to react. I’m not interested. He’s got his opinions so let’s leave it at that.”

Those sympathetic to Rooney might argue that Scholes’ timing, whilst perhaps not malicious, was hardly helpful. Rooney’s World Cup goal tally of zero will weigh heavily on his shoulders, and he must feel at times he is almost being willed to fail.

For others, sympathy will be in shorter supply. Even with another World Cup potentially on the horizon for Rooney, there may be some who feel it his last chance and that there can be no excuses.

Roy Hodgson clearly feels that Rooney’s goal threat is enough to risk him in an area which the the player is on record as disliking. Rooney’s international record – 38 in 90 games – is the primary reason to include him.

Hodgson had a case when he bemoaned what he called the “obsession” with Rooney and whether or not he had a place in the team. The manager knows that the debate is threatening to cloud the player’s mind.

As United fans we have had our ups and downs with Rooney and, of course, with England. Some will never forgive him for his flirtation with City, nor his fits of pique but wherever you stand on him, it will be interesting to see how he copes with the expectations that a whole nation has now placed upon him.

You may also like