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Rooney, Ferguson and Gascoigne: a wonderful concoction but a troubling statement of modern football?

Wednesday 11th January 2012
How difficult its must be to be Wayne Rooney. On reportedly £250,000 a week, not including endorsements and sponsorships, Rooney is, in my opinion, one footballer who seems to have bought or kicked his way to the right to be exempt from the moral codes the rest of society is bound to adhere to. This was confirmed at the weekend, when, after a fair tackle made by Vincent Kompany, Rooney, who was not even involved, sprinted over, arms wide open in outrage, appealing to referee Chris Foy to produce a red card. Cast your mind back a few years to 2006, the World Cup quarter final. Mr. Rooney makes a clumsy challenge, and to the same degree his Manchester United teammate of the time, Cristiano Ronaldo, protests to the referee and is shoved away in dismay by Rooney. Rooney was outraged, England was outraged and any decent sportsman or woman would have cringed at the clear lack of sportsmanship. Whilst this incident may have impressed lessons upon others, Rooney clearly doesn't seem to have learnt any lesson from his own experience. Oh well, whatever goes around, comes around.

Of course, Rooney is not really responsible for Kompany's red card – how silly of me! According to his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney has done no wrong, vilified because he “is a headline-maker.” When a professional footballer can dictate his wages by throwing his toys out the pram, as Rooney so infamously did in 2010, he will naturally self-delude and believe he is invincible, consequently defying rules and curfews imposed on him. Ferguson can blame the media for Rooney making the headlines, but no-one forced him to turn up to training in an unfit state after a Boxing Day booze-up. Neither did they force him to run at Chris Foy on Sunday. But of course, being Wayne Rooney, it's not his fault. Ferguson's protests didn't stop there; he added that Rooney “has to realize the press have another Gascoigne. Good or bad, the press don't mind. He will have to suffer it. Any flaws will be absolutely annihilated.” The comparison is insulting and unfair.

You don't have to look too closely to see Rooney is not suffering. To the contrary and credit of his footballing ability, he appears in a position of strength. In what has been dubbed an unsatisfactory season, Rooney has defied critics to put the ball into the net more times so far this season, than in the entirety of last. Off the pitch he has successfully dictated terms of a mega-bucks contract at Old Trafford, and has been able to control and respond to the media whenever he wants via Twitter. Gascoigne was never able to exert such control over his life, image and arguably his career. Many people have pondered what Gascoigne would have become had he been managed by Ferguson who famously stated in 1999 that he “knew managing him [Gascoigne] would be no joyride but the hazards that went with the talent would never put me off”. Here in 2012, Ferguson aligns one of his stars with one of the nation's favourite players, and again I can't help but think, when it comes to “flaws'' Ferguson has wavered offside in comparing the two.

Gascoigne is far more complicated than Rooney, and for reasons far beyond kicking a ball. He has suffered from alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction, had a failed marriage and depression. In attempts to fight back personality, he bravely sought rehab, has attempted to work everywhere from Kettering to China, been sectioned and even turned up to help Raoul Moat in an almost comical twist to his stand-off with police.  Rooney's cigarettes, and the odd misdemeanour here and there do not even begin to compare to Gascoigne's troubling life. So can Mr. Ferguson justifiably make such a comparison? The most erratic “flaw” Rooney has confessed to in the press is that the sounds of a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer help soothes him to sleep. I mean really?

And whilst Rooney may drive his room buddy to the point of distraction with his slightly antisocial habit it doesn't really compare to Gascoigne's antics during Italia 1990, where he searched hotel corridors in desperate hope of finding fellow insomniacs. Another fundamental difference between the two is heart. Whereas with Gascoigne, his unhinged personality has always clearly linked with an insecurity to be appreciated and liked, Rooney has not let so much as a sniffle reveal any type of desire to be adored (except his hair inplants maybe? – they might have coincided with a Rooney renaissance and the rediscovery of his scoring best, but Wayne is not a soothsayer, and therefore I imagine that simple vanity played no meagre role in the reinstatement of his follicles) . Part of Gascoigne's troubling past is what makes his emotional range more diverse and intense than Rooney could even attempt to tweet about. See interviews of Gascoigne stripped of the circus that did follow his life, and sit him down to talk about football and you will witness an insightful and intelligent commentator of the game. Judging Rooney's tweets I feel it is fair not to expect any type of eloquent expression, let alone opinion.

As hard as it sometimes is to forget that Rooney is coming to the prime point of his career, there can be no excuses for a lack of experience, or a poor temperament justified by age anymore. If Rooney wants to be judged as a footballer, and that alone, which he should, then incidents such as the one involving Kompany and his post-match tweets need to stop, be censored or completely removed. Perhaps Mr. Ferguson needs to elicit some better behaviour himself if there is to be any hope that players like Wayne Rooney might follow. If lessons are learnt from mistakes, headlines will simultaneously decrease.

If nothing else, it is hard to think of an instance when Gascoigne tried to get a fellow professional sent off…


Charlotte Richardson

Total articles: 2

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