When Wayne Rooney recently earned his 100th England cap there were many sceptics. A vast number of the general public deemed him unfit to be part of an elite group of players. How is it that a man who regularly rants at the media, recklessly gains red cards and has unacceptable behaviour off the pitch is now queuing up for such a prestigious award?
Firstly, although it seems odd, Rooney has had a surprisingly consistent international career. Before breaking into the senior team Rooney played for each age group with England. This shows a great deal of consistency. He is only 29 but is on course to equal the international career length of many other centenarians. This is due to the fact that he broke into the senior team at a prodigiously young age and has proved persistent through the years. In fact he is the second youngest player ever to score a competitive international goal for England. The facts cannot be denied, despite being reprimanded at several points in his career for poor form Rooney has maintained his place at the top and has backed this up with goals. He currently stands as England’s 3rd top scorer and is only three goals off the top. That said, Rooney will need to ensure his international performances are up to the same standard as his club ones.
As many troubled England fans will no doubt remember, England has only made one successful challenge for a major international trophy- the 1966 Fifa World Cup. This bare trophy cabinet makes it very difficult to compare the successes of player through what they have won. From the table below you can see that all of England’s centenarians have achieved very similar honours. Most have either been the Player of the Year or, if they played before the award was introduced, have been accepted into the England Football Hall of Fame. This further complicates the comparison. If we go by this, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore are the greatest men to have ever played for England. This seems a sound statement but it excludes David Beckham and Peter Shilton, whose career extended over a phenomenal amount of time. While Wayne Rooney certainly fits the bill he will have to achieve something special to be recognised as a legend.
Rooney’s situation is similar to that of David Beckham’s. After a rash tackle effectively ended England’s World Cup hopes, Beckham was hated across the country. This is very similar to the dismissals that Rooney collected against Cristiano Ronaldo and Miodrag Džudović respectively as well as his recent sending-off against West Ham for a rash tackle on Stewart Downing. Rooney was chastised for his ill-discipline and poor leadership just as Beckham was. It is worth remembering that Beckham redeemed himself through a sensational free kick and that it is well within Rooney’s capabilities to do the same.
While Beckham had a rollercoaster career people still remember him as legend and that is simply because people are interested in the end product, not in the process needed to create it. Rooney will need to drastically improve his international form as well as his competence as captain- he was recently found guilty of yelling at his teammates for conceding a goal that was largely his fault. And while people may criticise him now, if he manages to reverse England’s fortunes as captain he must surely go down as a legend.