Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rooney record flatters to deceive

Wayne Rooney will undoubtedly become England's all time international top goalscorer in the near future, however, should he be spoken of in 'legendary' terms, as mentioned this week by Gary Lineker.

Once Rooney breaks the record he should rightly be applauded, but he should not be spoken of in the same terms as Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Michael Owen.  These three players got important goals in vital matches in World Cup and European Championship final tournaments.

Bobby Charlton scored four goals in World Cup finals, in a period where there were fewer games. Bobby scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Portugal in the semi final of 1966.  He also scored in 1962 against Argentina in a 3-1 win, however England were knocked out in the quarter finals by the eventual winners Brazil.

Gary Lineker scored ten, yes ten goals in the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals.  He scored a classic Lineker-esque hat-trick in the winner takes all group game against Poland in 1986.  He ended up top goalscorer in the 1986 World Cup. No Englishman had been top scorer in a World Cup finals before, and no-one has done it since.  In 1990 Gary scored two penalties in the 3-2 victory over Cameroon in the quarter-final, and he memorably scored the equaliser against West Germany in the semi-final.  He also buried his penalty in the shoot-out, which England sadly lost.

Michael Owen was the first English player to score in four consecutive major tournaments.  Firstly bursting onto the scene at France 1998, with his mesmeric goal against Argentina. What is often forgotten is that he also scored the equalising goal against Romania, after only being on the pitch for 10minutes. In Euro 2000, he kept up his scoring record during a poor tournament for England, and in the World Cup of 2002, he scored in the knock out games against Denmark and Brazil.  His goal against Brazil was another fine individual effort. A typical Owen goal.
Owen will always be remembered by England fans for his hat-trick away to Germany in September 2001.  It was only cruel and persistent injury problems which curtailed his England career, which surely stopped him from breaking Bobby Charlton's record of 49 goals.  He was highly regarded by coaches at club level and internationally, Sven Goran Eriksson said "You know that if he is on the pitch, there is always the chance to win until the last second of the game.  There are so many good memories of Michael, but the best must be scoring three goals against Germany, away.  I wonder how many players have scored a hat-trick away to Germany, there can't be many"

Does Rooney deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as these three? In my opinion no.

When Rooney burst onto the international scene at Euro 2004, he was sensational, scoring match winning doubles against Switzerland and Croatia, however he got injured in the knock out game against Portugal as England were eliminated.
Rooney appeared at the 2006 World Cup, only just recovering from injury, and never looked fit when he did play.  This off the pace, languid style of play was replicated in the following tournaments, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euro's and the 2014 World Cup in which Rooney and England stank those tournaments out.

Wayne Rooney is a flat track bully of the highest order, he bangs in the goals in qualification games, against the likes of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Slovakia.  However what is the best side he has scored a meaningful, competitive, goal against? If you scrutinise his goal record it's not great reading.
Rooney scored the opening goal away to Russia in 2007, in England's doomed qualification for Euro 2008, he also got a tap-in against Uruguay in the World Cup of 2014. That is it, for a player of his ability, it is not good enough.

Compared to Charlton, Lineker and Owen, his actual record does not come close, Rooney's record will be one of longevity over quality.
Whilst Rooney has won every honour at club level and proved to Manchester Utd fans that he can affect and influence games against the best sides, England fans will be left urging - you could have done all that for us as well, Wayne.

Chris Clark © 2014    @Chrisclark1975

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