Rooney still centre stage but England no longer expects

Rooney still centre stage but England no longer expects
England's forward Wayne Rooney passes the ball during the international friendly football match between England and Peru at Wembley Stadium in north London on May 30, 2014. Rooney was named England captain on Aug 28.

LONDON - More than a decade after he made his England debut as a fearless and prodigiously talented teenaged tearaway, it is still hard to find a consensus on Wayne Rooney's value to his country.

Is he the world-class talisman upon whom several England managers - as well as thousands of travelling fans - have invested their hopes of overdue success?

Is he merely a good player whose intermittent brilliance exposes the mediocrity of many his international team mates?

Or is he the English enigma - perhaps even underachiever - who has caused so much frustration at major tournaments?

What is clear is, that at the age of 28 and with 90 caps and 38 goals behind him, Rooney owes England a big World Cup in Brazil.

The Liverpool-born striker might have won Premier League and Champions League titles since joining Manchester United from Everton in 2004, but his England career has no obvious mark of distinction.

He is even waiting for his first goal at a World Cup.

In Germany in 2006, Rooney had only just overcome a foot injury and was evidently lacking in match fitness when his temper boiled over and he was sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho as England went out on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals. "Don't kill him," Sven-Goran Eriksson told the media afterwards, as expectation and disappointment collided.


In South Africa in 2010, the frustration of life with England - and another pre-tournament injury - again got to the forward. At the end of England's stultifying 0-0 group-stage draw with Algeria, Rooney said into a TV camera as he walked off: "Nice to see your own fans booing you." He later apologised for "any offence caused".

Rooney couldn't take part in England's first two matches at Euro 2012 because he was suspended after being red carded during the final qualifier against Montenegro. He returned to score the winner against Ukraine but could not lift his team mates in the quarter-final with Italy which ended with another penalty shootout defeat. "Rooney only plays well in Manchester," was former England coach Fabio Capello's damning assessment.

Even the one tournament that Rooney has graced - the 2004 European Championship - has become strangely tainted over the years by the subsequent feeling of unfulfilled potential.

So after he has covered his pale-white face in factor-50, which Rooney will turn up beneath the Brazilian winter sun in June?

Sadly, for England supporters, it is impossible to predict with any degree of confidence.

This time last year, Rooney was about to embark on a summer of uncertainty as his Old Trafford future lay in the balance. Most observers suspected that Rooney, whose relationship with Alex Ferguson was said to be beyond repair, would seek a new challenge at Chelsea.

However, Ferguson's short-lived successor, David Moyes, stood firm and Rooney stayed, even signing a new contract worth a reported 300,000 pounds (S$632,487) a week in February.

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