It’s been five days since Wayne Rooney got himself stupidly sent off in England’s game against Montenegro. The majority of us have, rightly, shrugged our shoulders and looked forward to this weekend's huge game against Liverpool at Anfield.
Emotions are likely to be running high, what with the Hillsborough debate in the Commons on Monday and all the stirring Keys and Gray have done this week on TalkSport.
The question we need to be asking is whether or not that’s an environment in which Wayne Rooney, given his recent troubles, can be trusted. I would suggest that, although the evidence says no, there is absolutely no way we can drop him either.
Part of what makes Wayne Rooney the player he is is the unpredictable mean streak that runs through him. When he’s channelling it positively into top class performances—as he has been so far this season—that’s great. It’s when it starts to eat at him from within that it becomes a problem.
We’ve seen it many times in an England shirt where, usually deployed on his own up front ahead of a midfield of artisans, he is often hung out to dry by the system and his teammates. He sees less and less of a ball he is used to dominating at Old Trafford and gets gradually more frustrated as the game goes on.
Along come the bad touches, the poor decisions, the negative body language and the flashpoints.
When he trod on Carvalho’s bollocks in the World Cup in 2006, England were slipping out of control of a game they had initially held their own in. The frustration was understandable.
When he sarcastically clapped the referee during one of our dour 0-0 draws with Villareal, we should have been beating a team we were on paper superior to. The frustration was, again, understandable.
Just like the other day against Montenegro. The frustration was understandable, especially given the off-the-field crap which has reared its head in the past few days.
The thing that is absolutely unforgivable is the way that he deals with it.
He’s going to occasionally be frustrated, because he is a professional footballer who plays for an elite club and a very good country. Expectations are set incredibly high and, at the very top level, he will lose as often as he wins. It’s part of his job to handle his frustration in a way which doesn’t result in his team being pegged back. You don’t achieve that by getting sent off.
Some of the defences that I have seen made of Rooney have been laughable. Apparently, it’s alright to kick another human being if you’re being “forced” to play international football with Scott Parker and Gareth Barry.
Tell you what. Go around the shopping centre today and start kicking people when you get a little frustrated with something. See how long you avoid being behind bars.
Of course, as I said initially, Rooney’s mean streak is something that we just have to live with. He’s such an outrageously talented player than any personality flaws, of which he has many, need to be overlooked.
If he can keep his mind on the football and just play, he’s one of the greatest players this country has ever produced. I have no problem with Wayne Rooney, the player. It’s Wayne Rooney, the person, I don’t like. As long as he keeps the two separate, that’s none of anyone’s business.
Unfortunately, the person gets in the way of the player too often.
There will be more incidents with Rooney before he retires. We will be revisiting this, almost certainly, at some point after he gets stupidly sent off for United in some future big game. He’s never going to get over this petulance. That’s just the price we have to pay.