Wayne Rooney: the golden boy of English football

AFP, Monday 21 May 2012

Rooney is chasing redemption at Euro 2012

Wayne Rooney
Manchester United's, Wayne Rooney (Photo: Reuters)

Wayne Rooney will set off on his latest bid for redemption at Euro 2012 uncomfortable in the knowledge that his campaign could be dead in the water before he has even kicked a ball.

Eight years ago, a 17-year-old Rooney lit up Euro 2004 with a string of dazzling performances that earned him breathless comparisons to a youthful Pele before England bowed out in the quarter-finals.

Despite the disappointment of defeat, Rooney's displays left many convinced that maybe, just maybe, the Three Lions had unearthed a player capable of leading them to the promised land of victory in a major tournament.

Fast forward eight years, and England fans are still waiting for Rooney to take a tournament by storm as he had once seemed destined to do, frustrated by a combination of injuries and poor form.

In 2006, Rooney's World Cup campaign in Germany was compromised by the curse of the metatarsal, a broken bone in his foot leaving him struggling for fitness as the tournament kicked off.

He returned to the starting line-up at the end of the group stage but an unhappy and goal-less campaign ended in the quarter-finals when he was sent off against Portugal for a wild stamp on Ricardo Carvalho.

"Wayne Rooney is the golden boy of English football," outgoing England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson commented. "Don't kill him because you will need him."

Yet with England failing to qualify for Euro 2008, Rooney would have to wait two more years for the opportunity to shine in a major tournament.

The 2009/2010 season saw the Manchester United star in superb form for club and country, scoring regularly in the Champions League and revelling in his free role for Fabio Capello's England.

But Rooney's serene progress through the season was cruelly disrupted by an ankle injury suffered in March which again left him short of match sharpness as England headed to South Africa for the World Cup.

Rooney's performances at the World Cup were to become emblematic of England's ill-fated campaign as a whole. A player who had seemed full of impish craft and dexterity only months before was suddenly unable to trap a bag of cement.

The nadir came in England's abject 0-0 draw with Algeria in the group stage, when a frustrated Rooney hit out at fans who had booed the team's performance.

"Nice to see your own fans booing you," Rooney snarled into a television camera in what was one of several public relations disasters that dogged England.

Rooney's mystifying slump in South Africa may have been partially explained by the lurid headlines about his private life that emerged later that year as his unhappiness at Old Trafford became apparent.

With a new deal at Manchester United in the bag, and order apparently restored in his personal life, Rooney finished the 2010/2011 season strongly, helping United to a record 19th title before scoring a well-taken goal in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley.

His contribution to England's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign was mixed however. Ill-discipline led to his suspension for the 2-2 draw with Switzerland in June 2011, but he returned in the autumn to score twice in the 3-0 away win over Bulgaria in Sofia.

However his campaign ended disastrously in England's final match against Montenegro, when a petulant kick aimed at Miodrag Dzudovic saw him deservedly sent off and hit with a three-match ban by UEFA.

Rooney's ban was later reduced to two matches on appeal, but the striker's moment of madness means that his Euro 2012 campaign is precariously balanced.

Rooney will not be eligible to make his entrance until the third and final group game against Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19, by which stage England could conceivably be out of the competition.

If England fail to get positive results against France and Sweden in their opening group games, the 26-year-old's wait for redemption at a major tournament will stretch further into the future.

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