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
Ahead of tonight’s qualifier against Slovenia, temporary England boss Gareth Southgate made the move that fans and media alike have been clamouring for, he dropped Wayne Rooney. Wayne himself is surely disappointed, no one likes to be dropped and I’ve no doubt he still sees himself as a great player, but this could be a blessing in disguise. He needs a break from England, but more than that, a break from football entirely. Rooney should step away from the game for a few months to try and save his place within it.
While it’s been easy to forget as Rooney has stuttered through the last year or so, he has had an illustrious career. He delivered one of the most indelible moments in Premier League history when as a 16 year old substitute, he scored a miraculous goal against high-flying Arsenal. He went to 3 World Cups and 3 European Championships, and scored 53 goals in 117 games for England. At his peak, he was the only England player of recent times that would have got into any team in the world, our glimpse at what it would be like to be a world class footballing nation.
Add it to his club success at Manchester United and it is, by any measure, a brilliant career. But because Rooney was anointed the savour of English football at 16, his career is often seen as a bit of a disappointment, simply because he failed to make England great. But there can be no doubt, Rooney has been one of England’s best ever players.
Every game on the national stage that Rooney looks lethargic and out of place, his legacy erodes. His successes become harder to recall and his failures clearer. That’s why it’s time for Rooney to accept the blessing in disguise given to him by the Southgate (and Mourinho at club level) and take a break from the game. Step aside for 3 months, claim burn out and exhaustion (he didn’t have much of a summer break after all) and come back rejuvenated and refreshed. He won’t play for England again, but everyone will think it was on his terms. He might get another shot with United, or he might move on, or he might just retire. But the story will have changed either way.
However he does it, that’s what Rooney needs. Because at the moment Wayne’s World is falling apart and what has been a distinguished career is limping to the finish line with a whimper.