There’s something about the English mentality that reflected in the nation’s media. Outlandish optimism, based not on historical results or recent trends but blind faith, leads to a darker side; the apparent need to decry in the face of failure. England will not win this World Cup and either way Wayne Rooney is heading for some heavy criticism.
Tuesday’s headlines, dominated as they were on both front and back page by events from England’s friendly with South African Premier League side Platinum Stars, made much of the striker’s behaviour. While England failed to impress in a 3-0 victory over an opposition little better than League One standard, the media’s post match focus on ‘Rooney’s Rage,’ and the Scouser’s apparent descent into the precipice drew far greater ire.
At best Rooney’s heavy censure by the media on Tuesday is a reaction drawn from a long-held view of the striker’s supposed temperamental flaws. After all, common belief has it that the former Everton front-man cost England the 2006 World Cup, following his dismissal against Portugal in the tournament’s quarter-final.
On the darker side of that tale is a view of the media that is not only happy to focus far too heavily on the star man but is consistently sucked into a – potentially – class-based diatribe against the 34-goal striker. After all, Oxbridge educated Henry Winter’s assertion that “Rooney’s short fuse could blow England’s best chance” is based neither on recent history, nor fact, or any realistic hope for an average team.
Spot a trend?
That Rooney was not cautioned during the England qualifying campaign, is not by a long-chalk the most carded player in the squad – that honour belongs to Michael Dawson – and is widely regarded as an inspirational role model among the Manchester United squad says far more than the press care to admit.
On a more semantic level the media has also lost sight of the basic laws of football, where a player must both be both “abusive” and “foul” to draw the official into issuing a red card. Rooney’s alleged words – “f*ck you” – do not merit a dismissal unless appended with a personal attack against the officials. That is not a charge local referee Jeff Selogilwe made.
But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Commentators do have one point though: plenty of officials, such as the non-FIFA sanctioned Selogilwe who took charge of Monday’s friendly, will seek fame and notoriety by acting against Rooney and telling the tale. In this the press is highly complicit, building a reputation that the striker has worked hard to dispel.
Rooney’s frustration with his colleagues, most of whom are of a lower standard that he, is palpable. It’s also understandable. Indeed, Fabio Capello’s half-time anger at his team, and second half rant at the fourth official, said as much. Limited as the Italian’s English might be, it certainly stretches to four-letter vernacular.
But the striker runs an even greater risk of vilification if he fails to lead England to glory. His lionisation is complete; now it is time to bring the star back to earth.
United supporters have been here before of course and when the inevitable happens it is at Old Trafford alone that Rooney will remain a hero.