Wayne Rooney’s England Career: A Eulogy

June 20, 2014 11:55 am

The nation of England watched nervously and with a sense of excitement when Leighton Baines threaded through a wonderful disguised pass for Wayne Rooney 61 minutes into our first World Cup group game against Italy. He cut inside and looked set to score as Salvatore Sirigu positioned himself for a save to his left. Rooney went right, too far right.

Chances like that do not arrive often against teams like Italy, even if they looked as defensively laboured as they did and you would do nothing but expect the net to be bulging from a player who consistently has a goal tally in double figures for his club and is on a surreal £300,000-a-week. In reality, this just summed up everything Wayne Rooney is all about. Not turning up on the big stage has unfortunately become the centerpiece of his career; having never scored at a World Cup (he hadn’t assisted a goal until Saturday night either). waynerooney

There are so many advantages to having a player like Rooney in your side. When he can be bothered he can be a footballing paragon creating moments of magic the likes of which people can never forget. Just this season he turned West Ham goalkeeper Adrian inside-out with a stunning 50-yard volley that left everybody watching with a jaw resting on the floor beneath them. Quite simply though this only happens when he can be bothered and since signing his bumper new deal he just hasn’t been at the races.

There has been calls from all sides to drop Rooney and even a call on the student radio show I formerly hosted to not have him in Brasil at all; not even as an option from the bench. Only now are we starting to realise the growing list of reasons not to utilise him. Firstly, as mentioned prior, he doesn’t turn up at World Cups. Since his World Cup bow in 2006 he has added one assist to his international statistics but he has added a rage-fueled red card for famously stamping a foot into Ricardo Carvalho’s thigh and then lashing out at Cristiano Ronaldo,  in the process of probably costing us the game against Portugal. In 2010 a similarly anonymous set of performances contributed to finishing second in a group containing the USA, Algeria and Slovenia, which is simply not good enough.

As a segue from this a second point is that his temperament and attitude is probably the worst we’ve seen in years. Players like Mario Balotelli and Pepe will be remembered for their antics on the pitch more than their footballing careers, but what about Rooney? When England were 2-1 down against Italy he showed that he’s just a lazy complainer who doesn’t want to try when the heat is on. Take, for example, his corner kick. What was that? I’d love to meet the man who decided that moments of pure genius like that corner or the shot hmilan-sept-23-2013-xinhua-pepe-reina-l-goalkeeper-101005e took off Ross Barkley, which he ballooned over later in the game, warrant a £300,000-a-week contract. I was particularly happy that he never got into a position where he could get himself sent off, because that would have been the last think he needed to do for the full house, the perfect Rooney World Cup performance.

Finally, a less national anger driven reason with more tactical reason behind it. With Sterling and Sturridge in such impervious form, and an insistence that Sterling should be played in the number 10 role, Rooney was forced to play wide left. There is no doubt that his train wreck of a performance was not helped by being played in stirlingandstrathardsuch an unnatural role. With Sterling providing his best moments of quality from non-central positions, I don’t really see much of a need to play Rooney out of position. Even here though, as a player you don’t complain; you get on with it and give 100% and all the pundits after the game who said he did are simply deluded by the fact that he’s Wayne Rooney, statistically our best player and therefore undroppable. He cannot say he gave 100%.

As a result of not giving 100% a lot of the blame has fallen unfairly on Leighton Baines, who was often left to marshal both the deadly Antonio Candreva and youngster Matteo Darmian, due to Rooney’s inability to get back and help; something we’ve seen him do so much for Manchester United this season. Why Roy felt the need to play Rooney up against Candreva and Darmian though I can’t fathom. On the other side of a strangely lopsided formation the only attacking force was a centre back by trade, Georgio Chiellini, so why Welbeck was played wide right to deal with this is beyond the realms of thought. Welbeck played the role of hustling Pirlo well but if he can do this from wide right he can do it from wide left and also use his energy to help Baines who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for. Poor tactics from Hodgson.

For the next game against Uruguay, we need to go all out attacking to capitalise on their defensive and midfield frailties, especially as they too are reeling from a shock 3-1 defeat at the hands of Costa Rica, who top Group D. I would like to see Sterling and, if fit, Sturridge but start again, with Ross Barkley in the number 10 role and Adam Lallana as the final piece in the puzzle. Sterling should play wide right against likely Alvaro Pereira given Maxi’s suspension, able to turn defenders into spaghetti which a delectable array of tricks and blistering pace. Lallana would play wide left therefore, going up against the faster Martin Caceres at right back, but with his grace on the ball and an ability to go on jinking runs, he shouldn’t have a problem.Ukraine v England - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Rooney has finally incurred the wrath of the nation that once treated him as their hero. Abject performance after abject performance when it really matters has taken it’s toll. Despite his effervescent performances earning us points in qualifiers, where he is often top scorer for England, the amount of points he is costing us on the big stage is just too much. Is anyone talking about his performances in the qualifiers? No, because the World Cup is what matters, and it’s too late for him to start caring now when the nation has grown sick of him. Having said all this, he’ll probably start against Uruguay because Roy is afraid of dropping him, despite what he says. If so, it’s time to prove yourself, Wayne, because you’re very lucky to be where you are right now.

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