> New Jersey Transit 17.47 to Morristown, NJ <
Once upon a time (well, quite recently, in fact), the one thing we all knew about Wayne Rooney was that he liked playing football. Couldn’t get enough of it, even if that often meant playing in the rain and for a team that clearly wasn’t Everton.
But now what? Yes, maybe he does still like it, but when was the last time he was conspicuously good at it? From where I’m sitting, not since before he got himself injured against Bayern Munich last year in the quarter-final of the Champions League. When he first came back from that, he wasn’t the same; at the World Cup, he was scarcely even a shadow of himself; and, so far this year he’s been similarly ineffective. What happened? He can’t still be injured – even Rooney himself admitted that…
Somewhere along the line, it seems, other things started to matter more. His over-extended loins tried their best to keep him in the tabloids, and his over-employed lawyers did their best to keep him out. Instead of staying steadfastly in shape, he put a bit of weight on and got caught behind the bike shed smoking. No matter, he maybe thought, the Nike money kept rolling it, the Nokia money kept rolling in, the EA Sports money kept rolling in, the Coca-Cola money kept rolling in. He continued to be, for appearances sake, Wayne Rooney, England’s best footballer and another good season or three away from being the world’s best, too.
Only now, increasingly, the memory of what Rooney can do has to take the place of what he does. That Rooney we all remember didn’t search in vain for the back of the net. Nor dither over a simple sideways pass, as more and more he does. He simply got on with the business of being the player other teams fear (while, of course, and unhappily for them, helping Ronaldo to be even better still).
More importantly, no doubt, the old Rooney didn’t bitch and moan about Alex Ferguson, either. Not in public, at any rate. From the perspective of this Arsenal fan, at least, that really doesn’t seem like a smart course of action. Is he just maneuvering for more money? If so: shame on him – wasn’t he just the guy who liked playing football, luckily equipped with a sublime gift for doing so?
I suppose there comes a point when you have to stop and ask, ‘how many prostitutes does a married footballer have to sleep with before he starts to sound like an arse?’ Or, hmmm, less puritanically perhaps, ‘how many products does a rich man have to advertise before he starts to seem greedy?’ One more, for good luck and all, ‘when will we ever see again the Rooney that first played for England – who wasn’t merely a terrifying prospect, but our terrifying prospect?’
That amazing goal he scored against Arsenal, as a 16 year-old for Everton… feels like forever ago, doesn’t it? Maybe it was – this Sunday, Rooney turns 25.
And what’s up with Torres? (Sportsmen, eh? It’s almost like they’re only human…)