Wayne Rooney: Booed by fans, backed by boss

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

ENG­LAND started an­other new era with vic­tory as man­ager Gareth South­gate opened his in­terim suc­ces­sion to Sam Al­lardyce with an at­tri­tional tri­umph over Malta.

The main top­ics on the post-match agenda were, once again, cap­tain Wayne Rooney’s con­tin­u­ing worth to Eng­land and whether this was the sort of dis­play South­gate needed to aid his bid to land the Eng­land man­ager’s job on a per­ma­nent ba­sis.

Rooney’s worth to Eng­land was sub­jected to an­other foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion in the build-up to South­gate’s first match in charge - and the 30-yearold was given a strong vote of con­fi­dence by the new man­ager.

South­gate sym­pa­thised with the sole fo­cus on Rooney and ad­mit­ted he could not un­der­stand the au­di­ble frus­tra­tion of Eng­land’s fans when he shot wildly off tar­get near the end.

He said: “It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to get an in­sight into his world over the last 10 days. Ev­ery de­bate seems to fo­cus on him. The onus on him is enor­mous, the crit­i­cism of him is, at times, un­fair and yet he ploughs on and plays with pride and rep­re­sents his coun­try with pride.”

South­gate com­pared Rooney to long-term Eng­land ser­vants such as John Terry, Frank Lam­pard and Ash­ley Cole as he added: “They kept turn­ing out and re­ally put them­selves on the line. Some other play­ers have not put them­selves for­ward at those mo­ments and with­drawn from squads when the go­ing has got tough.

“Those guys are the peo­ple that re­ally des­per­ately wanted to play for Eng­land again and again and again and put their necks on the block. Wayne falls into that cat­e­gory.”

South­gate’s faith was clear as Rooney was kept on as cap­tain and started against Malta, and all the in­di­ca­tions are that he will keep his place in the next qual­i­fier in Slove­nia on Tues­day.

The Manch­ester United man may not be the force he once was but he is a player and per­son­al­ity who never hides ir­re­spec­tive of any per­sonal strug­gles for form and his de­ter­mi­na­tion to al­ways be in­volved was in ev­i­dence once more at Wem­b­ley.

This was, how­ever, an­other in­dif­fer­ent per­for­mance that once again gave the im­pres­sion that Rooney is in­creas­ingly be­ing shoe-horned into Eng­land’s plans rather than act­ing as a ful­crum for a man­ager’s pol­icy.

Here Rooney, who is 31 later this month, was op­er­at­ing in a deep-ly­ing mid­field role spray­ing “Hol­ly­wood” passes left and right to the flanks but not pro­vid­ing any killer cre­ativ­ity, other than two shots which brought saves from Malta’s heroic keeper An­drew Hogg.

He was fig­ur­ing in a role that Tot­ten­ham’s Eric Dier has played bet­ter in re­cent months - he was one of the rel­a­tive suc­cesses amid the fi­asco that was Euro 2016 - and the Spurs player will surely adopt the role reg­u­larly once more in the fu­ture.

Dele Alli, on tar­get once and a dan­ger on sev­eral other oc­ca­sions, is best suited to the “num­ber 10” role Rooney once fit­ted into neatly, while Harry Kane and Daniel Stur­ridge are ahead of Eng­land’s cap­tain as strik­ing op­tions.

So will Rooney now sim­ply move around where he is needed and be­come Eng­land’s bit-part player through­out this World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign?

He was on the ball enough but his in­flu­ence was mar­ginal. Only Eng­land’s man-of-the-match Jor­dan Hen­der­son (187) had more touches than Rooney’s 177 and he made 153 at­tempted passes, bet­tered only by Hen­der­son’s 178.

Rooney gained pos­ses­sion on the most oc­ca­sions, 14, but also lost it most for Eng­land with 25.

South­gate ap­peared to take is­sue with the Eng­land fans who jeered Rooney’s late, wild at­tempt on goal, say­ing: “I don’t un­der­stand [the boo­ing] but that seems to be the land­scape. I have no idea how that is ex­pected to help him, for sure.”

There are times when it looks like the fire that fu­elled Rooney for so long has burned out and the trade­mark surges into op­po­si­tion ter­ri­tory were barely in ev­i­dence against the massed ranks of Malta’s de­fence.

He showed frus­tra­tion, too, and was lucky not to re­ceive se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment for a dan­ger­ous lunge at Malta cap­tain An­drei Schem­bri that ap­peared to get some of the ball but also caught the Boav­ista player with what plenty would have ad­judged to be ex­ces­sive force.

Rooney may pro­duce the goods in Slove­nia but the pres­sure is grow­ing as he pre­pares to win his 118th cap, record for an Eng­land out­field player. He must de­liver dis­plays of sig­nif­i­cance soon. —

BBC Sport a

Wayne Rooney

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.