Gollo’s Rant: Rooney is Finished

29 10 2010

Did you enjoy the last one or did it infuriate? Here’s my mate Gollo to speak the unspeakable once again …

Whenever there’s a brilliant new teenager on the scene, it doesn’t take long before someone utters the phrase: ‘Imagine what he’ll be like when he reaches his peak’.  
 
We’ve heard it time and again about the likes of Rooney, Walcott et al. And here’s the problem – in terms of the modern footballer it makes absolutely no sense. 
 
If you believe the various ex pros who loiter around the punditry circuit like teenage chavs around Bargain Booze, then footballers peak somewhere between 26-28.  So when a player bursts onto the scene at 16 we are told to expect them to be achieving non-stop greatness for at least a decade. This may have indeed been the case in the 60s, or even as late as the 80s, but football in this country was played at a slightly different pace. A centre forward with a wise old head could use his experience and nous to great effect on younger more naïve defenders. Football was also more physical. Despite Mr Wenger’s ceaseless protestations, the truth is that small skilful players in this country have never had it so good. They can’t be tackled from behind and nudges that ‘Chopper’ Harris probably considered foreplay are punishable by yellow cards these days. And rightly so. I’m not pining for those days by any stretch of the imagination – the game has changed.
 
Modern football, especially in the Premier League, is so quick that pace, athleticism and physical conditioning are more important than ever. At the top level, players are scientifically conditioned, their weights are carefully monitored (I can’t get the image of Jon Parkin out of my head here but I’m going to push on regardless) and generally , when they head out onto the pitch they are as ready as they can physically be without breaking the rules of the game. Which leads me nicely onto my next question, how many 28 yr old men are in better condition now than when they were 18? Our metabolism is faster, our recovery rates are faster … according to Cosmopolitan Magazine (don’t ask) we even screw better when we’re 18.  Sure, we may ‘fill out’ a little until we hit twenty one but after that it’s just a slow and painful trudge towards death.  Add onto this the style of football in the Premier League, it’s the fastest league in the world, where skill and first touch are frequently choked by teams closing down. We expect people to run endlessly, centre forwards are universally applauded for chasing down goal kicks and running the channels and booed for trying skilful flicks anywhere outside the penalty area.

In addition to the physical demands, there are also the psychological demands placed upon the modern player. Before I hear the John Gregorys amongst you ask: ”How can a guy earning that much be depressed”, bear in mind that the media scrutiny these players are under is greater than ever. The top English players have massive expectation on their shoulders; it has been assumed by those in the know that Wayne Rooney would’ve won England the World Cup single-handedly by now. Don’t get me wrong, footballers have an amazing life, but when you consider the endless media scrutiny on their private lives and paparazzi tracking their every move then the ceaseless expectation must take their toll.

Let’s continue to use Wayne Rooney as the subject. At 16 he burst onto the scene with a love of the game and talent to burn.  Aged 18, he moves to the biggest club in the world (Fergie says so) for a huge transfer fee and is given more money than he will ever know what to do with. He then spends the next six years getting kicked from pillar to post on the pitch and putting his body through the mill week in week out. I don’t have the stats to hand (I’m from the MOTD school of punditry) but we know Rooney is the sort of player who will run himself into the ground. He does this for ten months of the year for six years straight. I have checked that in this period he has never played less than 40 games a season. Regardless of the aforementioned psychological strains this amount of effort must have a cumulative effect on his body – and it’s starting to show. As a guy who hopes desperately that England will win the World Cup in his lifetime it pains me to say this … but when you consider the above – Wayne Rooney’s best days are almost certainly behind him.

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3 responses

30 10 2010
Ben Shepherd

As further evidence, consider the fact that Rooney had played 431 matches for club and country before he was 25. That has to take its toll.

I agree with your main point. The norm is for young footballers to develop and improve gradually. There’s a tendency to think that fantastic youngsters are going to improve at the same rate – but from a higher base – and get even better.

As an obvious analogy, it’s like expecting a tall 15 year old to keep growing at the same pace as the rest of his class. It might happen but then again he might just have developed early and reached his potential sooner.

I don’t think Rooney is finished. I don’t think that we have a Michael Owen situation or even an Adriano. But I don’t think he’s likely to improve much on last season. He might well have a similiar career to, say, Kluivert. He burst onto the scene, full formed at 18, had a great 10 years and then very faded badly.

1 11 2010
Gollo

That’s a fair observation, it’s also worth pointing out that Rooney is a player who relies on touch and vision rather than pace/athleticism. But the combined effect of his style of play, amount of games played at such an early age and fact that he clearly doesn’t look after his body as much as Ryan Giggs for example, may mean that we’ve seen his best days.

30 10 2010
GhostGoal

Yeah agree, “Rooney is finished” is way over the top. Expecting more from him is a strange one though – it’s not like he is going to go to the next level or anything. In addition to the reasons above, like you say – he has strength and he has experience. He is already (on the pitch) an intelligent footballer.
If he has a good attitude and keeps himself in shape he should be able to maintain similar levels for 5/6 years … but would anyone really be surprised if we end up looking back on 2009/10 as his peak?

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