With one swing of his trusty right peg from the penalty spot, Wayne Rooney fired himself into English football folklore, breaking the great Sir Bobby Charlton’s record by one after notching his 50th goal for his country against Switzerland on Tuesday evening.
It is a feat that ranks him among the all-time greats to have donned the three lions. But is he the greatest striker that we have ever produced? Can he lay claim to be in the pantheon of the likes Charlton and Bobby Moore? Yes. Yes he can.
Love him or loathe him, Rooney is a player that has delivered. He has risen from teenage starlet with the world at his feet to captain of his country, multiple Premier League winner and a Champions League winner to boot. There aren’t too many who can boast such a career.
But Rooney isn’t a player who is taken to the hearts of all England fans when he represents his country. He isn’t lauded in the same way that Steven Gerrard was or held with anything like the same affection as Paul Gascoigne. He has, though, been the one constant for England over the past decade. When he is in the team then we could always say we had one ‘world class’ player.
The lack of success at major tournaments for England is not Rooney’s fault. It is a myriad of factors, from the managers, to the FA big wigs to the lack of talent at our disposal to challenge the elite. But he has been a scapegoat on occasion. Maybe it won’t be until he hangs up his boots and we can reflect on his career that we will fully appreciate just what a fine player he has been for club and country.
There is always a need for us to draw comparison whenever a milestone is achieved. People argue that there are easier games at international level nowadays when you consider the likes of San Marino, Andorra and Gibraltar get to share the same stage as the Germany’s, Spain’s and Italy’s of this world. But that should not dim Rooney’s achievements. The beautiful game is more challenging, both technically and physically, than it has ever been. Would a striker like Gary Lineker be so prolific in the modern game? I’d argue that he wouldn’t.
Rooney has also had to contend with the prying eyes into his personal life, something which is accepted as par for the course by the modern-day footballer given the prevalence of social media. And yet he has maintained his place among the world’s elite. Maybe it’s time to cut him some slack? You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.