England were absolutely diabolical in the 0-0 draw against Slovenia on Tuesday, putting in a performance that was in my opinion worse than their Euro 2016 showing. There were misplaced back-passes, weak tackles and had it not been for Joe Hart’s multiple saves, the Three Lions would have deservedly left Ljubljana with nothing. I don’t want to dwell on the game too much, as arguably the biggest talking point was Gareth Southgate’s decision to drop Wayne Rooney.
As with anything in this country, the press went into a frenzy and the fans were left chanting ‘Rooney, Rooney!’ in the stands despite inexplicably booing him at Wembley on Saturday against Malta. I want to address both of these issues.
With Rooney left out of the starting XI, Jordan Henderson was given the captain’s armband by Southgate, a decision that the media seemed to exaggerate to an extreme, suggesting that Rooney had lost the armband for good and Henderson was the new permanent Three Lions skipper. This post I saw on Facebook, from Match of the Day nonetheless, is a perfect example:
The difference between the Liverpool man and the star names above him is that they were permanent England captain, whilst Henderson was just standing in, as Phil Jagielka, Joe Hart, James Milner and Chris Smalling have all done too in the last 12 months. I don’t remember there being such media hype when they led the side out in the absence of Rooney? If Match of the Day wanted to really list all the England skippers in the last 10 years, then they’d have to include Joleon Lescott. No, really.
I also disagree with the claim that this is ‘the beginning of the end’ for Wayne Rooney. In my opinion, the 30 year old is still one of the key players in the squad for his experience alone. We may not see him scoring goals anymore and leading the line, but a midfield role could suit the Manchester United man really well. He has said himself that he is not as good as he used to be, and understandably so. The problem for many fans is likely to be psychological – they still think of Rooney as the wonder teenager that broke onto the scene over 10 years ago and lit up Euro 2004. He has effectively been the poster boy for English football ever since and supporters expect him to still be the Three Lions’ star man. We have to accept that Rooney is no longer England’s main man. He is 30 years old, it is ridiculous to expect him to do what he did 10 years ago. Rooney was by far not the worst England player at Euro 2016, in fact in my opinion he was one of the best, but still came in for the most criticism because he is supposedly still the golden boy. We need to lower our expectations for Rooney and the team in general.
Let’s address the boo boys. I don’t often criticise fellow fans, football is all about opinions after all, but when I do it is usually due to others booing. I understand why some fans boo, but for me it serves no purpose at all. When Steve Sidwell, who played a key role in Reading’s record breaking Championship season of 2005-06, returned to the Madejski Stadium with his Brighton team in August and was booed, I have never felt so ashamed of my fellow Royals. The booing of Rooney is just as ridiculous. It is simply disrespectful. I’ve already covered how the striker/forward/playmaker/holding midfielder is not the force he used to be, but he is undoubtedly one of the greatest English players of all time. He has played consistently at the highest level for 14 years, a feat that very few players can also claim, whilst the most pertinent statistic is that he is the country’s record goalscorer with 53 goals. He is also closing in on Peter Shilton’s caps record of 125, currently only second to the goalkeeper with 118 appearances. Regardless of how good he has been recently, Rooney’s career needs to be treated with respect.
This situation is almost directly comparable to that of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Both the Frenchman and Rooney have been mainstays with the Gunners and England respectively, but success has been lacking in recent years. They split the opinion of fans, but are legends in their own right. Yes, Wayne Rooney is an England legend. Perhaps it is time for them to go, but they should be allowed to leave at their own discretion. Wenger could well leave the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season, whilst Rooney has said he will retire from international duty after the 2018 World Cup. Up until that point, we need to show him and the whole team our support, otherwise we’ll never get anywhere.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!