Darts, golf and a nap in the afternoon: Wayne's new 'boring' world
Sam Wallace gets a glimpse of life and routine under Capello's strict regime
Thursday 17 June 2010
"Breakfast, train, lunch, bed, dinner, bed." So Wayne Rooney summarised life in Camp Capello yesterday. "Lying in bed at two in the afternoon," he added. "That's quite boring."
When you are one of the most famous footballers in the world it does not pay to let your guard down often and Rooney is no exception to that rule. But just briefly yesterday he let us into his private world where nothing much out of the ordinary happens. Nevermind that beyond the gates in Royal Bafokeng and back home in England the question of Rooney and his potential effect on these World Cup finals is the national obsession.
Tomorrow Rooney faces Algeria in Cape Town in a match that England simply have to win. In his down time, he understands that, in his own words "we need to watch our legs". It was 20 years ago that Paul Gascoigne was famously caught by Bobby Robson playing tennis in the midday Sardinian sun during Italia '90. But Rooney is no Gascoigne, even if he might find himself under much the same scrutiny.
Yesterday it was his golf shoes, which have "Fcuk u Floyd" scrawled on them – a very in-joke referring to rooney's own nickname of Floyd that somehow relates to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. In public, Rooney is not the ebullient figure he is in private. He plays it safe. When an Italian journalist asked him if the players had anything planned for Fabio Capello's 64th birthday tomorrow you could see Rooney thought about a joke but decided against it.
Only very occasionally does Rooney, who has a surprising tendency to blush with embarrassment, reveal the single-mindedness that we see from him on the pitch. Yesterday it was when a German reporter enquired innocently why Rooney had said he would like to face Germany in the next round. The German was fixed with The Stare. "It would be nice," said Rooney, "to beat them".
The delicate question at the moment with Rooney relates to his goalscoring form. His last goal for Manchester United came on 30 March against Munich in Germany in the Champions League quarter-final first leg. Since the injury he picked up in that game, which restricted the amount of matches he could play in, he has not scored again. He has not scored for England in a full international since his ninth goal in qualifying against Croatia in September.
This is, after all, a man who scored 34 goals for United this season, including 26 in the Premier League. He is judged by the highest of standards. "I had a season with United, wasn't fit, and played when I probably shouldn't have," Rooney said. "I trained well with England. I am happy with that. I want to score, of course. Hopefully I can do in the next two games. When you get injured, you lose your match sharpness, at this level I need to score goals. I am feeling good, I feel I have reached maximum fitness.
"When I was playing well and scoring this season, in training I was sharp and hungry. That's how I feel at the minute. In Austria [at the training camp], I had a few niggles and in training I held myself back. But since we've come over here I've felt sharp and been flat out in training. That's important for me to do that to get my form back in the game."
Having reached a peak in his form already, Rooney is having to battle his way up the mountain. But he does not looked worried, least of all by the result against the United States which was put into perspective by Spain's defeat yesterday. The draw, Rooney said, "wasn't the worst result in the world" and, as for his own form, he was confident that it would come.
"I don't feel under extra pressure," Rooney said. "If we win the next two games I'll be happy. Did the US have two or three shots at goal from distance, and one good chance? I don't think there was any fear from us. We took the game to them. Unfortunately we didn't get the win, but we didn't play with fear.
"The manager is obviously confident and I'm a confident person, and I believe we will win [against Algeria] and qualify – I don't think there will be any problems about that."
Rooney knows that the whole World Cup is waiting for him to explode into form, especially as his superstar contemporaries – the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – have not yet hit the ground running. It is an expectation that he has lived with all his life and it is hard for him to articulate his drive and ambition in words.
Having said that, he came close yesterday with an assessment of "what Diego Maradona did [in 1986] and Pele did in three World Cups." "They are the two stand-out players to take the World Cup by the scruff of the neck and virtually win it single-handed," he said. "You look at those two and if you can do half of what they achieved, then that would be great."
Unfortunately, half will not be enough. What is being asked of Rooney is enormous and it strikes some contrast with the mundane details of life in the England camp. "It's hard at the minute," he said. "We play snooker now and then, a game of darts but there's only so much you can play. Thankfully the games are on now and we watch them. Takes a bit of the boredom away. Sometimes it's a long day. But for the training and the games it's worth it."
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