Wayne Rooney – England's anti-hero

It is no secret that the English media have maintained a tumultuous, at best, relationship with Wayne Rooney. But what is it that has made England’s former ‘Golden Boy’ such an easy target for the same media that once held the striker in such high regard.
Admittedly, in the recent past Rooney has not helped his case as the anti-hero within the English camp, coming under heavy flak for his comments about English fans’ lack of support for their team after England’s disappointing draw with Algeria in their 2010 World Cup campaign. However, in a tournament where quality performances for The Three Lions came at a massive premium, Rooney was certainly far from the worst player who lined out in an England shirt.

This somewhat uncharacteristic incident aside, Rooney has scarcely done anything meriting the level of vitriol levelled at him by fans and the media alike. Rooney, like any player is prone to periods of poor form. However, unlike most, Rooney is also capable of periods of prolificacy in front of goal that few can match. Indeed Rooney has demonstrated this goal scoring form for his country many times (The aforementioned draw with Algeria marked the first time in over three years Rooney failed to score in successive competitive matches for his country) Yet Rooney is still maligned at any opportunity by his national media.

In the wake of England’s recent 2-1 defeat to Italy in Manaus, Rooney was again heavily criticised by his national media in spite of playing out of position and still providing the vital assist for England’s goal to draw level late in the first half. It is also worth noting that, among the major continental sporting papers consistently rated Rooney among the better players on the night than their English counterparts. With the additional nationwide focus once again on Rooney, Frank Lampard perhaps best summed up the situation, and how to best deal with it, in his recent interview in the aftermath of England’s opening game against Italy.

“Unfortunately we do have a fixation with one player during every World Cup, ones that I’ve been involved in.

“It’s a bit frustrating when you’re in a team group and that happens because we’re there trying to play together – people are not selfish in this squad – trying to get results and a fixation with one player can become, rather than a debate, a bit of an agenda.

“So I do think we need to drop the agenda and look at the team, whoever plays, because the manager will pick the best team that he sees fit and whoever plays we want to win the game.”

Indeed Lampard’s assessment of the Rooney fixation seems to hit the nail on the head and his sentiments were echoed by formed Manchester United captain Gary Neville who believed Rooney played well against the Azzuri and claims that he has “never known there not be an obsession around one player. It was Gascoigne from 1996 to 1998, Beckham from 2000 to 2006. From 2006, it was Rooney and Beckham. Now it’s Rooney to 2014.

“Unfortunately – or fortunately, because he is a big player – this time it’s Wayne Rooney.”

Even England manager Roy Hodgson admitted, post-defeat, that despite being played on the left side of midfield, Rooney’s best position is when he is able to get into the box.

With such high-profile members of the England setup coming to the defence of Rooney it begs the question, when will the media follow suit and realise that their team’s best chances lie with the support and proper utilisation of their star players.

Here are some links to some of the match reports across Europe: Corriere Dello SportGazettaSport (Spanish)AS (Spanish)Marca.

By Conor Timlin

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