Why we shouldn’t criticise Wayne Rooney
Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the week’s football action and the stories making the headlines across the beautiful game
This past week yet another 'non story' in English football has become a story. Wayne Rooney, England's record goalscorer was pictured looking the worse for wear having had a few drinks at a wedding in the hotel where the England team were staying.
Rooney apologised, though one assumes more for being caught in the situation than what he actually did to get there. Yes, he is the England captain with a certain level of responsibility, and deserves criticism when not playing well. But all he really did was make some friends, have a good time and in the process break down some of the supposed barriers between footballers and the rest of us. And he has been condemned for it by some parts of the media.
The FA’s stance on the matter raises some questions and it should firstly look at its priorities. By reviewing its policy on free time and likely banning any form of social activity, it is essentially alienating fans who want their idols to have a bit about them. In addition, there is some hypocrisy over Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana's strip club visit. They will face no punishment, but all the evidence suggests that it was Rooney's conduct that has resulted in the governing body's decision to shackle the whole squad.
It may have been better served issuing a statement acknowledging Rooney's apology as the end of the matter, drawing a line under it and getting back to work focusing on the more important issues it faces, such as the future of English football and its own culture.
The TV and digital age we live in means players are always scrutinised for their performances, putting extra emphasis on the demands that they maintain a spotless lifestyle. Yet that shouldn't ever come at the expense of their personality. They are human, after all. Who wants to support a team of robots, the things that make them them scared off by gossip columns, boardrooms and Twitter?
People like Rooney, Andrew Flintoff and no doubt others before them, are the figures the tabloids love to hate when all isn't well because they're not - and never will be - squeaky clean. Conflicting reports over whether Rooney was actually told to go to bed by Papa Southgate don't help either. They allow these conversations to continue for longer than necessary. Yes, they might grab headlines and ensure people subsequently grab copies on their way to work, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that important?
Take the Guardian's excellent and emotionally charged interview with former Crewe player Andy Woodward, who last week made the incredibly brave decision to open up about the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of one of his youth coaches - experiences which curtailed his career and left severe mental scars. Although difficult to read, aren't these the stories that matter?
We have seen some fantastic work done by the British press to bring struggles, crimes or genuinely thought provoking stories into the public eye. Rooney was not committing a crime, nor does his excursion warrant a full blown taxpayer-funded inquiry. Woodward’s revelations has lead others with similarly terrible secrets to feel comfortable enough to contact police – a more positive result than a few grainy photos could ever bring about.
To the general public, the lines are blurred as to what constitutes the public interest. Only recently Prince Harry was forced to issue a statement decrying the press intrusion into the life of his new girlfriend. Although a more extreme example than Rooney's, if these are indeed the methods used to sell newspapers, then anyone with a moral compass could be quite put off. Our sporting heroes have all made sacrifices in their personal lives to get to the level where they entertain thousands of people each week. I’d rather read stories about that.