James Lawton: To cast Wayne Rooney as a victim is to insult the real professionals

The solution to all of Rooney’s problems lies at his own feet

Chief sports writer

There was always a point when the grumpy posturing of Wayne Rooney was going to lapse into the grotesque and the absurd. It happened, surely, when Roy Hodgson, an experienced and cultivated football man, made a special appeal for some kind of understanding of the turmoil currently being endured by the Manchester United malcontent, who at the last time of checking was still earning £250,000 a week.

“You cannot,” said Hodgson, “divorce a person and the way he feels from the way he plays. We sometimes forget that, I think.”

Yes we do, Roy, and there is a compelling reason for this. It is to do with professionalism, how a man handles the pressures and circumstances of an uncharted life. We expect it of any guy who works for hire, whether he’s a neurosurgeon or a squaddie on patrol in Afghanistan.

We expect it of men and women who earn minute fractions of Rooney’s million a month. We expect them to tend the sick, drive the buses and work at a lathe whatever the condition of their lives and current level of their contentment and this, perhaps inevitably, tends to sour us to the whining and the grimaces of people like Rooney and his fellow victim of life’s random circumstances, Luis Suarez.

The England manager Hodgson is, not unreasonably, hoping that something resembling a front-rank professional shows up when Rooney joins the squad for next week’s friendly with Scotland. He has, of course, been down this route before, most specifically at last summer’s European Championship in Ukraine, and if the truth was obscured by some elaborate praise for the player’s attitude and performance the new manager had to be gravely disappointed.

After he missed the first two games of the tournament because of a brutish, mindless foul, Rooney’s contribution was largely embarrassing. He was plainly short of anything close to full fitness, a situation that might have been less pronounced if he had forgone an end-of-season trip to Las Vegas.

There were times when England’s Euro campaign seemed to amount to not a lot more than Waiting For Wayne, something which Hodgson’s predecessors Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello had done so unavailingly in the World Cup finals of 2006 and 2010.

Before the action started in Ukraine, Hodgson talked about Rooney’s “world class” and suggested that his delayed appearance would open the way to the final. That dream perished in England’s goalless ejection by Italy in the quarter-finals, after which Hodgson said that maybe a little bit too much had been expected of the star player. However, it was nothing to do with a lack of fitness, just an excess of expectation.

There has been plenty of that, of course, since Rooney’s eruption as the bustling young prodigy of Everton and, if he showed superb quality in the 2004 Euros in Portugal, the rest has been intermittent brilliance sandwiched between growing evidence that the player of his English generation, and potentially a member of the world elite, had entered decline.

Now we hear Hodgson warning England’s Chelsea players against talking to Rooney about their manager Jose Mourinho’s efforts to sign him. He is being put into some strange glass cage, a vulnerable creature apparently fearful of the reactions of his United team-mates and the Old Trafford fans.

It is really rather pathetic. Rooney has played 83 times for England and been feted at Old Trafford for the best part of nine years, right up to the point when Sir Alex Ferguson decided he had to move for Robin van Persie, an investment upon whom he could rely in terms of both performance and professional conduct.

This was around the time he dropped Rooney from an important Premier League game and fined him for presenting himself unfit for training, which was barely two years after Rooney had chastised Ferguson for his lack of ambition in the transfer market and held the club up to ransom while demanding a new contract – an ultimatum that came, bizarrely, soon after his abject and extremely surly progress through the 2010 World Cup, some bruising personal publicity and an extremely lean run in the colours of Manchester United.

Presumably all this must be put aside as we heed the advice to understand the tender feelings of a player who believes that he has to leave Old Trafford before he can prosper again as an elite footballer.

It is a lot easier said than done if you happen to believe that the solution to all of Wayne Rooney’s problems lies at his own feet. Hodgson suggests that such an assessment is cruel and simplistic. It isn’t. Beyond the fantasy world that big-time football has become, Rooney can hardly be seen as a victim.

He has created Wayne’s World, no one else. If he is at all wise he will start work on a new one, a real one, while there is a little time left.

Tigers by any other name will still be City

It may well be that Hull Tigers will come to be as prized by their followers as much as they were as the plain old Hull City they have been known as since their formation 109 years ago. It is also true that their owner, Egyptian businessman Assem Allam, has certain rights after bankrolling the return to the Premier League.

Yet why does his explanation ring so hollow when he declares: “My dislike for the word ‘City’ is that it is so common. City is also associated with Leicester, Bristol, Manchester and many other clubs. I don’t like being like everyone else. I want the club to be special. In the commercial world the shorter the name the better, the more it can spread quickly.”

So there we have it, a smart piece of branding to replace 109 years of being, in the good and the bad years, who you said you were in the first place. Let’s hope Mr Allam understands the important thing is not what you call yourself but who and what you will always be.

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

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific