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5th March 2022

Wayne Rooney: A discussion into the footballer and the man

Is Wayne Rooney disrespected as one of England’s all time greats?
Wayne Rooney: A discussion into the footballer and the man
Fitrl @Flickr


Wayne Rooney has recently been in the headlines for both good and bad reasons. He currently has one of the most difficult jobs in football, managing Derby County, yet somehow he is still fighting for survival despite the club having a 21 points deduction and transfer embargo. Was he underappreciated as a player? Was he disrespected as a person? What is the future for Wayne Rooney as a manager? 

The Footballer

Nobody has had as big of an immediate impact from a young age as Wayne Rooney. Bursting onto the scene in 2002 at 16 for Everton, Rooney became the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League by scoring an incredible goal against Arsenal.

He had incredible speed, strength and skill which made him pretty much unbeatable and caused him to almost single-handedly win England’s games at the 2004 Euros. Fans strongly believed that Rooney was the next Pelé, and that they could win the tournament. Sadly, Rooney was not like Pelé, he did not go on to win the World cup three times and score 700+ goals. So does that mean he was a failure or was he failed by others?

Following his move to Manchester United, Wayne Rooney only continued to get better, winning 3 consecutive Premier Leagues and a Champions League title by the age of 23. However, Rooney’s attitude of being a hardworking player became his own downfall. He was played out of his favoured position by multiple managers and played through injuries for the benefit of his team. These ultimately led to his physical attributes, predominantly his speed, declining earlier than expected.

Despite this, his skill and strength remained extremely impressive as he moved deeper into a midfield role, where his work, effort, creativity and scoring abilities aided him to become Man United’s and England’s all-time top goal scorer. 

It has not been smooth sailing to these accolades for Rooney. Having come from a rough background in the streets of Liverpool, he’d learnt to be a fighter and thus has a moment of rage within. To add to this, Wayne and his wife Colleen have been in the tabloids since they were teenagers. Neither of them were prepared for the bombardment of the press, with Rooney’s shyness, accent and lack of media training leading to him being regarded as dumb.

As the poster boy of English Football, there is not a lot of love towards Rooney. From a young age, Rooney has been subject to a lot of pressure and faced lots of criticism. In response to some of his criticism, Rooney reacted, which in turn created more stories for the tabloids with his response at the 2010 World Cup being one of his most infamous.

It was his early decline in his physique along with his incapability to perform at international tournaments that has left fans questioning his legacy. Although he won everything possible to win in the club game and has some of the very best individual accolades in the world, he is often forgotten in the discussion of great footballers by fans, with some even questioning whether he was world-class or not.

In response to that, I argue that Rooney was world-class and was also the greatest English player to grace the game. He was not only one of the most talented footballers but was the name shouted throughout playgrounds for an entire generation – and a player that fans wanted to watch on Match of the Day regardless of who they supported.

The Man

In an interview recently, Wayne Rooney said “He wants to be remembered for who he was rather than what he did.” And with his new role managing Derby County, he may be able to improve his legacy as a person and a footballer whilst also proving the doubters wrong.

Helping Derby County survive relegation on the final day last season was a major achievement for the club and for Rooney. Everyone would have understood if he had decided to move away from the club and attempt a less stressful and less dangerous managerial appointment, however, with Rooney’s natural selflessness in football it was inevitable that he was going to stay. 

Following numerous financial breaches and then going into administration, by December 2021 the club was deducted 21 points. Despite having no money to spend in the transfer windows Derby County still remains in a fight for survival and is within sight of safety, only 5 points adrift of Reading.

Wayne Rooney’s leadership and tactical decisions are to be praised for inspiring outstanding performances on the pitch from players who all respect and idolise him as a footballer. His relationship with the younger players is where he has most impressed, stating no young player can come to him with a problem that he has not faced.

He has also begun to enhance his reputation within the game and has greatly improved his articulation and verbal abilities coming off well in post and pre-match interviews whilst also showing a new maturity and calmness along with it.

This new Wayne has attracted the likes of Everton who approached him for their previous vacancy as manager and when asked if he thought about taking the occupation, he replied “No, listen, Manchester United and Everton are both clubs I’d love to manage one day but I’ve got a commitment to Derby County, I’m fighting for them, so my focus has to be on Derby.” This enhanced his good relationship with Derby County fans and if he is able to keep this side in the championship for a second season he will go down as a legend for Derby County and would have pulled off the most impressive managerial achievement in the modern game after only 18 months as a manager.

There is a high chance that this new calm and more well-rounded Rooney could eventually go on to manage either Everton or Manchester United and heal previous wounds with the fans and improve his legacy for each respecting club.

Where Next?

In conclusion, Wayne Rooney was a troubled man as a footballer who gave everything he had on the pitch and was often disrespected by fans and journalists for issues that were not his fault or were not to blame. These troubles led to him having drinking issues and problems within his marriage during his career.

This is all pushed aside as management seems to have been the medicine that Rooney has needed to help fix his personal problems and his reputation within English football. If he continues at his current rate in management, it may well fulfil his wish to be remembered for who he was rather than what he did.

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