The Last Word: Wayne Rooney knows exactly what makes him tick... pity is these books reveal not a jot of it
In this week’s extracts we learnt only about his elemental thoughts
On the same day that the serialised memoirs of Lance Armstrong's running mate revealed their drug-taking in such breathtaking detail, the contents of Wayne Rooney's My Decade In The Premier League – "the book they all wanted" – were drearily, ditchwater dull when they washed up on Wednesday. Other offerings in the expanding oeuvre of authorised Rooney books – the ones in which the writer is paid to tell what he and his advisers want told – have provided the odd surprise, like the shocking early admission to ghostwriter Hunter Davies in My Story So Far that "I was nearly called Adrian". Not this time.
The cutting edge of the revelations was Rooney returning 7lb overweight for pre-season, three years ago, and sometimes struggling to walk for half an hour the morning after a game. This material became a part of the football pantomime, nevertheless. Rooney's lawyers were forced to seek a correction when an entire radio debate on Wednesday was based on the flawed hypothesis that the serialised sections were about July 2012, not 2009.
The slim pickings have also reopened the debate on whether Rooney has reached the zenith of his powers – and perhaps he has. Compare how Falcao (27 next February) destroyed Chelsea for Atletico Madrid with Rooney (27 in October), whose gashed thigh is considered a "blessing" by a club manager who doesn't currently consider him fit to play, and it is valid to ask whether Rooney has the focus and application ever to achieve his full potential. He's virtually never lit up the Champions League for Manchester United or the international stage for England.
But the problem with the heavy industry of authorised Rooney biography is that it supports the view that he is incapable of the thought processes which might allow him to master his own destiny. In this week's extracts, we learnt only about his elemental thoughts – the "mad rush of power" when he scored his scissor-kick against Manchester City and how he was "a driver staring at a car crash on the motorway" when City won the league.
When another writer, David Winner, told Alan Shearer that he wanted to ask Rooney about the cognitive processes that went into his game, the pundit told him, "he probably won't be able to tell you how he got his talent and his ability. He was born with it." Winner, not unreasonably, attributed this to one of the classic notions of our class-obsessed nation – that Rooney, coming from the place he does, is incapable of analysing what he does. He is "the self-made genius cast in the role of dullard," as Winner put it.
He proved to be anything but that, of course. Though even Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, was unsure of whether Rooney's instinctiveness renders him willing or able to discuss his game conceptually – and the player himself, nurtured in the interviewee's art of not conceding a compromising headline, responded to Winner's idea of such a discussion with a wary "OK" – what emerged from their interview was a source of huge optimism for those who long for the introspection Rooney requires if he is to begin deserving his place among the world elite of £200,000-a-week footballers.
He provided a fluid explanation of the visualisation techniques with which Earl Woods trained Tiger and which Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson used. There was an explanation of the training ground routine in which he asks United's goalkeepers to dive a little earlier, later or differently after each of 10 shots, so that a mental image can be logged. "And then, if you get in that position in the game, that comes back to you. It's basically stored in your mind," Rooney explained. He spoke of Jari Litmanen, an idol. He itemised the thoughts – six of them – which fed through his mind as the ball headed his way for that City scissor-kick.
And only then did Winner feel what we all feel when occasionally allotted five minutes or so with Rooney, generally in a Champions League player/press mixed zone. "The clock on our interview is ticking down…" Time soon elapsed, allowing no opportunity while on such promising terrain to ask a million other questions, like how much Rooney actually still feels the drive to "develop from someone who could be great" into "someone who is a great player" – which he told The Times about in August 2009.
Why does he think he hasn't reached that pedestal yet? Who are the influences who can help him get there? Contrary to the national impression, Rooney is comfortably intelligent to answer these questions, if anyone is allowed to ask. Addressing what has always been the suspicion - that he has been unchallenged in the last two years at Old Trafford because Sir Alex Ferguson has not signed the type of players who have made United world class - may have to wait ten years. Influences might also be a delicate one. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Andres Iniesta are united by the kind of solid dependable family background which does not belong to Rooney. Through Stretford has his detractors, the distinct impression when Rooney appeared to defend him against a £4.3m lawsuit brought by his former agents Proactive at Manchester Mercantile Court two years ago, was that he has been where family might usually be. "He organizes my everyday life," Rooney said of Stretford. "There's obviously a lot of stuff to be done and we needed someone to do it."
There is so much more to learn about England's most naturally brilliant player of his generation, though Winner has taught us that there is an inner Rooney, wise enough to give himself a chance to have his best years ahead of him. It doesn't matter that the shiny revelation in the authorized My Story so Far that young Rooney was "very good in all areas" of mathematics doesn't tally with Rooney's school record. The cognitive skills he now requires needs lie way beyond.
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