Connect in the back of the net

Wayne Rooney clearly likes to make a big statement. His wonder-goal against Arsenal as a 16 year old announced his arrival into world football.

Later, his move to Manchester United was accompanied by a debut Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce and Rooney also marked his recent Everton homecoming with another spectacular goal, this time against the equally mighty Gor Mahia.

Things haven’t slowed down since then either, four games into the Premier League season Rooney already has two goals compared to the five he got in the whole of the last campaign.

 

Early renaissance

With his last few years at United looking like an increasingly acrimonious slide into mediocrity and high blood pressure, Rooney is enjoying an impressive twilight renaissance which fans of Euro 2004 will no doubt take great delight in.

Rather than being seen as an overweight burden on the wage bill Rooney is being hailed as a role model to Everton’s young talent and has also succeeded in winning back the favour of England manager Gareth Southgate.

Rooney’s decision to decline a national team call up perhaps reflects how successful his return to Everton has been and his desire to prolong it for as long as possible.

 

The setback

At 31, back home and in form everything, absolutely everything was going so well…until…

In the early hours of September 2nd Cheshire police pulled up behind a black Volkswagen Beetle. The police officers carrying out the stop must have thought it would be just another run of the mill encounter. Imagine their surprise when the window rolled down and staring back at them was none other than Wayne Rooney, alongside a lady who very clearly wasn’t his wife *gasps*.

Autographs were no doubt exchanged (meaning Rooney probably had to sign something legal) and eventually Rooney was arrested for drink driving before being bailed and ordered to appear at Stockport magistrates court on September 18th, the day after Everton face Manchester United. Funny how these things play out.

Needless to say, it made the news.

With the media circus kicking into full force (this is literally what they live for isn’t it) Everton manager Ronald Koeman tackled the problem head on, making clear how disappointed he was with Rooney and that the issue would be dealt with internally before announcing Rooney would start against Tottenham the following week. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Having signed one of the most experienced players in the Premier League who, at club level, has done it all and who is ostensibly a happily married man, Koeman and Everton could be forgiven for assuming babysitting Wayne Rooney might not be on particularly high on their list of things to do this season.

 

Prior incidents

Indeed, part of the reason for bringing in Rooney was to act as a role model to Everton’s young players. But then again, perhaps Everton should have been better prepared for the baggage that accompanies Wayne Rooney. It’s not like he doesn’t have previous…

Most recently, Rooney’s last England appearance in a victory against Scotland was overshadowed by his decision to gatecrash a wedding and stay up drinking until the early hours, a few days before England were due to play Spain. Rooney missed the Spain match through ‘injury’, after manager Gareth Southgate described Rooney’s actions as not intelligent‘.

A little further back, in 2011 Rooney was fined and left out of Manchester United’s New Years eve squad to face Blackburn by Sir Alex Ferguson after Rooney, along with Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson, turned up to training ‘worse for wear’ following a night out after the teams Boxing Day victory against Wigan, despite Sir Alex warning them against it.

Although neither incident is as serious as Rooney’s most recent, both call into question his professionalism and attitude, as has Rooney’s penchant for cigarettes, as did Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to send his star striker to Nike HQ in America for a week in 2011 to work on his fitness.

Amongst the melancholy, there are plenty who at one point considered Rooney a bigger talent than Ronaldo, for many, not least footballing philosopher Joey Barton, the difference wasn’t about ability, but attitude.

Wayne Rooney’s decision making must also be called into question in light of his long and checkered history with woman, many of whom are ‘of the night’.

In both 2004 and 2010 Rooney was involved in prostitution scandals and the Liverpudlian Casanova was also accused of propositioning a woman while on a stag-do in Ibiza.

This most recent incident has again called into question Rooney’s fidelity and has reportedly left his marriage with Colleen Rooney, who has stuck with Wayne through each previous scandal and who is expecting the couple’s fourth child, on the brink of collapse.

 

Baffling decision-making

Wayne Rooney looks like a man whose finger is always hovering above the self destruct button.

His actions have brought unwanted attention to his club and national sides, betrayed the trust of those closest to him and almost certainly had a negative impact on his playing career.

A perfect example of Rooney tying together those three elements in one shocking decision was his decision to leave Manchester United in 2010.

When Rooney announced that he intended to leave, as the club did not match his ambition, everyone was baffled, not least Sir Alex Ferguson.

In a lengthy press conference responding to Rooney’s comments Sir Alex suggested that aside from anger and disappointment he felt genuinely hurt and surprised. Amongst other things Sir Alex made special mention of the pastoral care which the club had afforded Rooney, helping him not just as a footballer, but in his private life too.

Ferguson did go onto state that every United player received the same care and attention.

However, although the same treatment is no doubt available to everyone, it must equally be true that not everyone uses the resources equally and Wayne Rooney is clearly a man who requires a strong positive counterbalance to his worst impulses. 

Manchester United and in particular Sir Alex Ferguson handled Rooney with decorum and professionalism, keeping him as in check as it was possible to do.

 

Misjudgment?

However, with Rooney being back at Everton for a matter of months and already falling foul of the law, it raises the question, were Everton prepared for what they had taken on?

It is important to make clear that this is not a character assassination of Wayne Rooney.

Clearly he has made some bad choices, and some terrible choices. But it is hard not to feel some sympathy for a boy who at 16 was thrust into a global limelight.

Growing up can be hard enough when you’re left to it on your own, doing so in-front of an audience of millions must feel like doing the chacha slide on a field full of landmines.

Instead of attacking Wayne Rooney, the point of this article is this: it seems as though Everton misjudged the maturity of the player they signed this summer.

Ostensibly Wayne Rooney is one of the most experienced professionals in the game and a happily married man, ready to play out the final few years of his career. In reality Rooney might just be the most immature player in the Everton dressing room and it contains 7 players under the age of 21.

 

Must be babysitted

Therefore despite the fact that Everton and Koeman should never be expected to babysit a 31 year old, in order to get the best out of Rooney as a footballer, and to protect the reputation of the club from Rooney as an individual, it may well be in their best interests to do so.

Should he be left to his own devices, Rooney’s future looks a little…uncertain. Retirement looks like an ominous prospect for a man who needs constant care and attention to stop himself from self destructing.

For now, babysitting might just be the best course of action.

 

Written by Scott Pope

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