James Lawton: Rooney excused by culture of evasion

If Jamie Redknapp had not been hit by injury at a pivotal point of a career which had promised some considerable distinction, he might well have been performing at the Bernabeu rather than in a television studio.

If Jamie Redknapp had not been hit by injury at a pivotal point of a career which had promised some considerable distinction, he might well have been performing at the Bernabeu rather than in a television studio.

This would surely have been a distinctly mixed blessing. The odds are he would have proved that in the homeland of Finney and Matthews, Haynes and Charlton there was still a Ferrari-owning footballer for whom the execution of a simple pass wasn't the most perilous journey into the unknown.

However, this would have been at the cost of a blinding insight into the way the average player weighs his responsibilities to the game that has come to reward him with such grotesque extravagance.

Redknapp the pundit unwittingly unlocked the mystery of how it was that a young man like Wayne Rooney could behave in the outrageous way he did without apparently suffering a flicker of remorse.

Redknapp said that Rooney had merely suffered a bout of "frustration" and that Sven Goran Erikkson was wrong when, a few minutes before half-time, he withdrew Rooney from the game he had turned into a travesty of sportsmanship and discipline. According to this breathtaking evaluation, Eriksson's decision made a big issue of Rooney's wretched behaviour.

Just fancy that for over-reaction, mistaking the smouldering rage and brutality of a 19-year-old multimillionaire footballer for something worthy of censure.

The coach, said Redknapp, should have waited for half-time. That way, presumably, we could have quietly forgotten about Rooney's thug's jamboree, and got on with the serious business of excoriating Spanish fans who behaved pretty much as their English counterparts had done in the not so distant past. That, if you remember, was before every leading English club felt confident enough in the state of our civilisation to hire significant levels of black labour, at least on the shop floor.

Why would Redknapp, an intelligent and generally impeccable representative of his trade, so instinctively seek to tear down a piece of football's most disgusting dirty washing? Because of habit, because of a culture of evasion, if not the most blatant dishonesty, which touches every level of the game.

The sight of Rooney displaying his lack of contrition by throwing down the armband worn in memory of the fallen pros Emlyn Hughes and Keith Weller was certainly shocking, but was it really so much of a surprise?

If the two great managers of English football, Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, could emerge from the recent shoddy anarchy of the Manchester United-Arsenal match without a single mea culpa between them, could anything more be reasonably expected from a kid who recently might have been auditioning for the role of Harry Enfield's appalling Kevin?

Where, after all, was any example of humility and self-examination? In the denial of his team-mates and his club that Rio Ferdinand was hopelessly at fault when he casually ignored a drug test last season? Scarcely. In the shame displayed by his England captain David Beckham when he boasted of how he had proved his brainpower when breaking the laws of the game and earning a yellow card in the World Cup qualifier against Wales? Perhaps not. In the absence of remorse by Robert Pires after his shocking penalty dive against Portsmouth or Ferguson's refusal to concede that Ruud van Nistelrooy's tackle on Ashley Cole was a horrific throwback to the worst days of football savagery? No.

Contrary to Redknapp's view, it was entirely right that Eriksson responded quickly and decisively to Rooney's behaviour. But then what can we make of the coach's later reflection: "I really don't know why he was like that. There was so much hot temper out there. I think it was the first time I've seen him lose his temper for England. Maybe we've seen some little flashes before but I think he was frustrated and that is why he pulled off the armband. Sometimes we do forget he is just a boy. While age is not an excuse, I would say it's an excuse for me. What happened on the pitch will be good for him. He has to learn and we hope he does. I'm not worried."

He should be. Rooney wasn't merely peevish in Madrid; he was utterly out of control. How he is dealt with by Eriksson and Ferguson is surely crucial to his future development. The trouble is that there is no real structure of discipline or accountability in English football, a fact which was underlined by Ferguson's assistant Carlos Queiroz yesterday.

When asked for his reaction to Rooney's misbehaviour in the Bernabeu, Queiroz said: "Every time we play we learn, and I'm sure the lessons from Wednesday night are not only for Rooney. They are for the whole team. The tackles were not only from Rooney. Some other players had problems with some other ugly tackles, worse than Rooney. What I can't accept is that once again it seems like a player from Manchester United becomes the bad guy and the others the nice guys, just because we don't talk about what happened with the others.

"It happened a few weeks ago when we played Arsenal. Ruud became the bad guy and all the others seemed to be the nice guys. The most important thing for Manchester United is that it is just not part of our business what happened on Wednesday. What is important is to create the right environment, the right concentration to beat Charlton. It would be a huge mistake if we were still playing the game from Wednesday, so we don't talk to the players about it.

"Nobody at the club is losing time with whatever happened in Spain. It's not part of our problems, it's something the FA and Spain have to deal with."

So there we have it, the full Pontius Pilate cleansing kit. United's prodigy shames himself and his country but it is nothing to do with his club - nor will it be until the next time he decides that he is frustrated enough to revert to the habits of the back alley.

This isn't the self-serving gibberish of some rabid inhabitant of the Stretford End. This is a professional man and what he is saying is what passes for responsibility in English football; this is the assistant manager of Manchester United and a former coach of Real Madrid. Jamie Redknapp is the son of a Premiership manager and a former England player.

In these dismal circumstances, can anyone seriously wonder why it is that Wayne Rooney seems to believe that he can do as he likes?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea