Ever since it was announced that Wayne Rooney was being recalled to the England squad to earn his 120th and final cap it polarised the media and fans alike.
Rooney has always been somewhat of a ‘Marmite’ player and I admit I have never been much of a fan of his. This can be blamed for how he was portrayed in the media and the fact he played for Manchester United, a team I have disliked my whole life.
I admit that my opinion of Rooney changed in 2016 when Manchester United beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. At the final whistle the United players all went off to celebrate with each other after being thoroughly annoyed at Alan Pardew’s dance when Jason Puncheon scored in the 79th minute.
But not Rooney. No, Rooney was the only United player to go around to every single Palace player to console them before celebrating. That elevated my opinion of him as a sportsman and, more importantly, as a man.
Much has been made of Wayne Rooney’s off-field life. These stories, which I don’t need to recount here, are nothing to do with Wayne Rooney the footballer and what he achieved.
I lived through the era where Gary Lineker was trying to break Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record which he was ultimately unsuccessful in achieving though Lineker played in what could be called as the second best era for the national team and under just two national managers.
Rooney by comparison had to play under a string of managers, in a range of positions and though the team was called ‘the golden generation’ they never achieved the results that Lineker’s Italia 90 team managed.
Not only did Rooney break Charlton’s England record, he broke Charlton’s Manchester United record too. That’s no mean feat and though I accept that has nothing to do with the national team it is an amazing achievement.
My point is Wayne Rooney broke two records by a player who is considered to be one of the nation’s greatest footballers. I believe that in years to come we’ll look back on Rooney’s career and wonder why we didn’t appreciate him more while he was playing.
And playing he still is. Anyone who saw his performance for DC United when in injury time he chased back an attack from his own corner, tackle the player then launch a 50 yard inch perfect diagonal ball can’t question his bulldog spirit and desire to win even if he isn’t as quick as he once was.
Sure, MLS isn’t the Premier League but a 70 yard sprint in the 91st minute is still a 70 yard sprint in the 91st minute whatever league you are in.
Other nations have done something similar to what the FA did for Rooney and we have looked them and applauded them for doing so. The only difference is the other country’s media probably didn’t spend the last 15 years character assassinating the players concerned.
My only regret is that Wayne Rooney didn’t break Peter Shilton’s record for England caps but that is story for another day.