In the wake of the John Terry sex scandal many have called for a leadership change at international level. Far be it for Rant to pass judgment on Terry’s extra-curricular activities – the Chelsea captain has always been an odious toerag anyway – but now is the time for Wayne Rooney to take the responsibility his performances command.
Rooney has not always been an obvious choice for the role, with controversy seemingly dogging the forward during the early part of his career. Rooney saw red playing for England at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for a stamp on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho. There have also been three further indiscretions playing for United.
There have also been allegations of impropriety in his personal life. Early in the forward’s relationship with Coleen Rooney, allegations appeared in the News of the World that Rooney had previously slept with aging prostitutes. While the forward made no comment, the prostitute in question eventually denied the claim and sued the paper, and Coleen went public in forgiving the player.
Then in 2006, Rooney claimed £100,000 in libel damages from The Sun and News of the World, who earlier printed unfounded stories that he beat Coleen in a nightclub.
But a new maturity off the pitch – marriage and the subsequent birth of a son, Kai – match that on the pitch. While the striker still plays with passion and fire the tantrums have relented and his aggression is more controlled. More to the point, Rooney is now the natural talisman for both England and United. The pressure placed on his shoulders is no more acute as captain. Indeed, he may thrive on it.
It is only in England that the public, fueled by the tabloid press, demands a stereotypical ‘up-and-at-em’ British Bulldog as captain. Terry is the ultimate embodiment of pointless fist-pumping patriotism that masks, in the eyes of too many, his obvious limitations as a player and person.
Typically other nations choose either the oldest or best player as captain, with an expectation that they lead through example. Proving the point, Spain’s captain is Iker Casillas, Italy’s is the modest Fabio Cannavaro, while Thierry Henry now leads France in the regular absence of Patrick Vieira.
Some of the great football leaders of the past had no need to recite passages from Henry V – Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, Pélé, and Maradona to name just a few.
The England captain also serves as the team’s media spokesperson, a role that Terry both loathes and is unsuitable for. Indeed, should Terry keep the captaincy he will face a barrage of questions not about football but his sexual exploits that now, allegedly, extends to affairs with nine women behind his wife’s back.
Meanwhile, Rooney has emerged not only as an engaging interviewee with honest opinions but one that is widely respected as man and player.
Rooney has not yet been considered for the role as Manchester United’s captain by Sir Alex Ferguson. The striker lies behind Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and possibly even John O’Shea for the role.
But that is of little consequence to the international role. After all, as the Old Trafford faithful know, United > England.