And so it came to pass. Wayne Rooney, the child from the streets, the chav from the estates, the right-proper scally, has finally proven that he could not shake the shadows of his upbringing. A child when he made his Everton debut, a youth as he made his way through the increasing thicket of fame and fortune, a fantastic footballer with the world potentially at his feet, Wayne Rooney migrated to Manchester United from the excellent tutelege of David Moyes.
It seemed inspired. A confused, raw, rough and ready child in need of greater nurturing from the game’s greatest Grandfather. Sir Alex Ferguson is exactly that. He has saved the careers (and lives) of more than a few young talents, and for those who didn’t want to accept the shelter (Lee Sharpe being an example) Ferguson was not afraid to let them go.
Certainly in his early United days, with the spectre of his sexual relations with granny-hookers foreshadowing his every teenage step, Ferguson quickly gave Rooney the sort of shelter and protection the young man craved and needed. Soon he was in the system. Soon he was in the mode, the Man Utd mode, the training mode, the focussed mode, the maturing mode. He engaged deeply in a long-term relationship with his childhood sweetheart Colleen, he seemed to be able to avoid the nightclubs and headlines. At the very least, he was able to avoid being in the papers for anything other than his increasingly superb performances. Even though I am a devout and die-hard Spurs supporter, Wayne Rooney was the player I coveted for my team, my favorite British player, my favorite player in world football.
He changed agents in there somewhere, early on as I remember, and there were lawsuits with both his former rep and Moyes, who took grave offence to something written in Rooney’s autobiography… come to think of it, this alone should’ve been a sign; 20-21 year olds don’t do autobiographies. Agents of 20-21 year olds do.
Endorsements came…money…attention for a young man who was always clearly uncomfortable with the off-pitch clamour and glamour. Agents and reps no doubt filled his phone, his ears, his head with offers and more offers on a daily basis; who knows what their commission is, but the standard is 15-20%.
As the end of last season approached, the main worry for Rooney and the public was his health; everyone wanted to make sure he was fit so as England could go and walk to the World Cup Final in South Africa. He was on a fantastic weekly wage, and doubtless a great series of bonuses. He was selling all sorts of products for all sorts of companies. He was a figurehead of Nike, who cheekily put together an advert which showed Rooney living in a caravan like a vagabond, his World Cup having been a disaster, his career and character decimated from the damage of a sensationally poor summer.
The advert must’ve been directed by Nostrodamus, or at the very least Dionne Warwick in her Physic Friends Network guise. Rooney had a bafflingly disasterous World Cup, and with him went any hope England had of doing anything significant. He looked irritated and sore, confused and unhappy, a proverbial bear with a series of thorns in it’s paw. The 23 year old, who’d already been at the very top level for 8 years, looked angry, frustrated, unhappy and tired. He looked all alone in South Africa. We watched and lamented how different it could’ve been if he’d had his Grandfather Fergie to put an arm around his shoulder and protect him.
What we didn’t know was that Rooney had found himself unable to shake old habits in the preceeding year or so, the old, immature habits of a young lad from a rough background who’d suddenly got a pile of money and was still surrounded by less-than-mature mates. He was formally accused of hiring hookers for sex romps in a Manchester hotel while his wife was at home, pregnant with their child. Gross indiscretion which Rooney would’ve happily continued to repel had the News Of The World not got hold of the story. The paper had reportedly been forced by the FA to gag the story until after the World Cup; such matters would be known by those closely involved. It would go a long way to answering where Wayne Rooney went last summer…
And then we arrived here. A world class player clearly out of sorts and clearly not always 100% fit. A world class player who’s ears must have been buzzing with all the static from agent phone calls. A world class player succumbing to the desire of others to maximize his commercial potential, yet a world class player who frankly hadn’t played like one for months and months.
His manager, his Grandfather, appears to have tried everything to bring peace to Wayne Rooney’s life. He has consistently offered him shelter from an increasingly furious and hostile world. He tried to protect him from the press and refused to discuss Rooney’s implied whoring around, despite the fact by it’s very factual definition it would go violently against Ferguson’s own moral code. Stepping back, it’s exceptionally hard to see what more Ferguson could’ve done for Wayne Rooney.
That caravan…oh how prophetic it was. Because now we are seeing that Wayne Rooney’s foibles stretch beyond his own curiously juvenile ideas of human relationships, and sadly extend to encompass rejecting help from people who care. His confusion appears to have hit a breaking point; how on earth could someone who performed so poorly in the summer do anything other than spend the next season with their head down, working hard and avoiding controversy or contract issues? He has listened to his battery of advisors who have doubtless told him of the riches he could get across the city. As if Rooney needs more money. No, what Rooney needs is to get a grip on his life, get a grip on his world, and I would suggest that leaving Ferguson is not the best way for him to achieve that right now.
I can see how this story, this career, will end up. A brilliant talent increasingly frustrated; injured more often than not, drifting into the night life more frequently as the injuries become more common. His anger will increase and his performances will drop off further. He will discover that in Ferguson he had a familial figure, that Ferguson was the Cus D’Amato to Rooney as Mike Tyson. And that Rooney is now allowing his career, his world, to be taken over by a gang of Don Kings…you can take the boy from the Northern chav estate, but perhaps you really cannot take the Northern chav estate from the boy.
He will never physically end up in the Nike advert caravan, but it is hard to see a happy ending for Wayne Rooney if he does not see common sense very very soon and make amends with the one man who can save him from himself and those around him…as a Spurs supporter, I hope he continues to make a mess of his life and career. As an appreciator of great talent, I hope Wayne Rooney sees the light before all he ends up knowing is darkness…