Home > Football > Hard to love you now, Wayne

Hard to love you now, Wayne

Wayne Rooney was always destined to be a legend.

Decorated with natural gifts beyond those of any Englishman for a generation, he was also a very English player, full of heart and endeavour: a man fans could be proud to love and to call their own. It is the combination of Rooney’s being better than all his England team mates and his fans’ perception of him as the committed, down-to-earth, people’s player, that made him their favourite as well as the team’s talisman.

The unseemly saga that unfolded this week is all the more depressing for that. Rooney, in collusion with a clever and determined agent no doubt, has behaved, at best, like an embarrassing, stroppy teenager, and, perhaps more realistically, like a graceless, conniving mercenary.  His actions have been a direct challenge to his employers at Manchester Utd, to his manager and his team mates. Yet he has been rewarded with a brand new 5-year contract, reportedly worth £160,000 a week.

Other than the emotional impact that revelations last month might still be having on Rooney and his family, the historical context of sleazy behaviour by a range of England players is not strictly relevant here. But it does point us to raise the question: how much are supporters supposed to put up with? How far from reality can these players ascend (descend) before we cease to see in them that which was so recognisable and appealing in the first place? Sport is made such a compelling spectacle in part by distilling and dramatising human endeavour. It is that which, lest we forget, leads supporters to part with ever-spiralling wads of hard-earned to pay the wages of its stars. But if our heroes can no longer be recognised as one of us, will we love them?

For we have loved Wayne Rooney. He was ‘crucial’ to our chances in the 2006 World Cup despite beginning the tournament with one leg, and he was equally crucial to our chances last summer. While he flopped, so did England. While he oozes skill, for many fans he also embodies what they love about football and about themselves: the honesty, the passion, the love for the game. The love heaped upon Rooney is clearly something which, at some time at least, mattered to Rooney. His outburst against England fans who booed the team’s World Cup draw with Algeria showed he found it difficult to deal with not being adored.

Setting aside the fact that Rooney has not played to the sparkling level that made his name for several months, let us remember that prior to this week’s elaborately constructed contractual negotiation, he was already being paid £90,000 a week by Man Utd. He has several lucrative endorsement deals and gets paid every time he plays for

"How wrong is the game?" Ian Holloway has been passionately outspoken on the issue

England. He owns a mansion in Cheshire. In short, he is not short of a few bob. Such a public demand for increased pay seems not just ungrateful, but both insensitive and undignified at a time when his club’s owners are in debt and his fans are asked to pay nearly £50 just to see a first round Carling Cup tie at home to Wolves. It also draws wider, sadder reflections on the significance of player power and the state of football today. Ian Holloway is surely right when he says “football should look at itself.”

If Rooney chooses to play audacious contractual hard ball to secure a wage rise from £90,000 a week to £160,000 a week, while of course accepting huge rewards for his various sponsorship deals (and having sold his wedding to OK magazine), he is eschewing emotion, honesty and passion for the game and cashing in on his assets; smartly making the most of his position. But, that being the case, can we any longer let him off the hook for his (various) transgressions on the grounds that he is just a naive boy who would play football for nothing if it meant he could do it every day?

There are some sportsmen whom fans admire, like Pete Sampras or Tiger Woods. There are some whom they love, like Andrew Flintoff, or, until recently at least, Wayne Rooney.

I think I was able to turn a blind eye to the World Cup flops, the fouls and the foul-mouthed rants. Even the hookers were being forgotten, although the cumulative impact of these might have been starting to tell. No doubt, once he regains form, I will continue to admire Wayne Rooney.

It’s just hard to love him now. To Manchester Utd and England supporters alike, Rooney has made his priorities very clear.

I hope he can live without the love.

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  1. Nesta
    October 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Its all true, and the cumulative effect of all that has happened does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Beyond this, and if as speculated this whole affair was just a creation by Wayne to get more money out of the Glazers, then in a week when economic cuts are going to put 500,000 people out of a job, this greed is at best insensitive. Whilst Wayne may have (and maybe still does) represent the ‘committed, down to earth player’ unfortunately his representation of the greed and selfishness of other footballers, for me, leaves a stronger image on my mind.

  2. October 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I agree- I’ve lost any respect I had for the man if you combine his call girl liasons and this shameful contract debacle. I can’t stand Ferguson but he deserved much more respect than Rooney dished out. Most importantly we need him back to form for England and if his club situation is sorted, hopefully he can now focus on regaining his form.

  3. The Chancer
    October 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Nice one Ed, really interesting distinction between love and admiration, ironically though perhaps the love is for those who aren’t the BEST in their field. Flintoff was a brilliant all rounder but only sometimes, he wasn’t a great of the game, if anything he underachieved considering his talent. Perhaps now we can only admire Wayne he will earn his place amongst the greats of all time?
    Certainly I think he has lost a lot of fans in this whole affair. Have a read at my thoughts…..http://bit.ly/awRcct

  4. October 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Appreciate your thoughts guys. Maybe Rooney really doesn’t care if people think badly of him. To have offended fans and team mates so baldly suggests he doesn’t mind being disliked. But their affection might be something he finds he misses when it’s gone.

  5. Walsh
    October 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I think it is unfair to say (to simplify some of the sentiment expressed here) that Rooney has ‘changed’ in some way and abandoned the attributes that were ‘so recognisable and appealing in the first place’ – I question if they ever existed. There is a culture of imposing upon sportsmen – particularly those that we have a vested interest in – personalities and attributes that we either think are befitting of them or in many cases which we, at some subconscious level, hope that they possess. We might excuse the immaturity and petulence manifest in Rooney’s unnecessary retaliations or descent as showing passion and desire – though the same actions by Eto’o or ‘that anemic little shit’ Iniesta would not be afforded such favourable spin. I agree that Rooney might find he misses the affection he has found in United and England fans alike but suggest that perhaps it was misguided in the first place. That said, it takes a certain amount of industry and endeavour to furrow a granny. I have to lay some of the blame at the feet of sensationalist and low quality media reporting for leaving me angry and confused about my feelings for Rooney – lets hope he just wants to play football.

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