Well he is a bloody good player and he is in fact english, so on the face of things it seems to be so. However, being ‘English’ and being ‘great’ doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically become an England Great and if we delve deeper into this question that has become very much the hot topic of the week, I think, as cynical as it may sound, there is room for an argument that suggests at this moment in time this is very much the case for Rooney.
But, firstly, I would fist like to congratulate Mr. Rooney (who is most probably reading this) on his 100 caps for England, a feat which in itself could be cause enough to label the Manchester United forward a national team hero. The fact he is also only 29 years of age means that he will most likely see all appearance records tumble before him and one does not break records of this magnitude by simply being a decent player or England’s water boy. Rooney has also scored a bag loads of goals in England’s colours, a record which again may fall victim to his name in the future. But taking all of these records, all of these numbers for face value can often be misleading and I feel strongly, despite my genuine appreciation for Rooney as an amazing footballer and servant to the national team, that circumstances strongly dictate a person’s right to claim legend status and for me at least, Rooney has not quite cut the mustard when we have needed him the most.
David Beckam single-handedly (or footedly for that matter) secured us qualification for the 2002 World Cup with that sumptuous last-minute free kick. Beckham too scored other important goals on the biggest of all stages, and despite moments of hot-headedness that threatened to tarnish his unquestionable legendary status, his captaincy as well as these goals, and the performances he gave serve to justify this status.
Bobby Charlton is not only England’s all time top scorer but he has one the World Cup, our only World Cup in 1966, with the Ballon D’Or following quickly after in the same year. He is regarded as one of the greatest players ever, let alone of his generation and his country and the fact he pipped the likes of Eusébio and Franz Beckenbauer to the post for that most prestigious of awards serves to epitomise his already undeniable claim as an England great.
Our favourite Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker too has an extremely impressive CV. Managing only one goal less than Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 (106 appearances) in twenty-six games less (80). He also managed to bag 5 England hat-tricks whilst 12 appearances in the World Cup saw him score an incredible 10 goals. His reliability in front of goal and for the national team is also illustrated by his clean disciplinary record, never once receiving a card in his entire international career.
I am fully aware that Wayne Rooney is an extremely good footballer, I have already mentioned this, and you could also argue a case for him being as good as, if not better, than some of the names I have put forward, however I believe it is not just ability that dictates a claim to greatness, it’s harnessing that ability and tapping into it when it is needed most.
Rooney has scored one goal at World Cup finals, in 11 appearances, a record that could clearly be improved and also argues my first point about ability and circumstances. Rooney has scored 16 goals in 21 World Cup qualifying games which is undeniably impressive but whilst these games we are most of the time expected to win, is this a record that should cement someone as an England great? A player can often be amazing in training but fail to deliver on the day, and no one would think twice about considering them for legendary status. This is how I see Rooney’s record. In training, or the qualifiers, he is unshackled and relentless, scoring bags of goals and leading the charge through the qualification process. However, get to when it matters and he has failed to repeat these performances. His 11 appearances at the World Cup in fact only equal 788 minutes, yet when considering the records of Ronaldo (The Phenomenon), Klose and even Lineker, they have proven that it is possible to score goals at the World Cup, and plenty of them, despite being such a relatively small amount of time. Rooney, unfortunately, has failed to achieve this.
In order not to contradict myself, the importance of a goal can sometimes be worth more than the quantity and even one goal of incredible magnitude can be enough to cement a player’s place in the annals of history forever. Has Rooney done this? I would argue no.
In the Daily Mail’s (I know) celebration of Rooney winning 100 caps, they listed their Top 10 Rooney goals, considering those of importance and also those of immense quality. It is interesting to note that of the ten, three were in fact scored in friendlies, something that immediately strikes me as worrying, as although scoring in the Maracanã is impressive, if a goal in a friendly is to contribute to defining your international career, no matter how good it is the lack of importance will always outweigh the quality in this case. The article even mentions a potential defection…
The Top 10, which of course could be debated, also contains his goal in the defeat against Uruguay as well as another scored in a defeat against Russia during the abysmal failure of Euro 2008 qualification. If again your best goals are defined by those scored in heart-wrenching defeats, who are we to care? That may sound a bit harsh as of course all international goals are precious and of course I could only ever dream of scoring one myself, but just in the context of this article, the Daily Mail’s Top 10, no matter how wrong or ridiculous you may find it to be, is a good indication that although Rooney has indeed scored a lot of goals for England, finding the precious few that have meant something, or the goals we have been reliant on, is a difficult task in itself.
Rooney is a quality player and he has played well for England on many occasions. I am also a big fan of Rooney and as ironic as it may sound, I wish I didn’t find myself writing this article. However, with all the celebration surrounding his 100 caps, and with the question of his greatness emerging from this, I found myself scratching my head thinking of ways to justify what I thought was a given. For all it’s worth, this article could be made completely redundant in the next few years as Rooney’s international career is far from over. However, the point I have been trying to make is that as of up to now, Tuesday 18th November (before the Scotland game), it pains me to say that I don’t think Rooney has done quite enough to merit international immortality, through no fault of his talent, but in his ability to use this talent when we need it most.
I for one hope that the European Championships in 2016 provide Rooney the platform to prove me, and other realists, completely wrong.
Good luck Wayne.