Tuesday 12 December 2017

Comment: Moral police have got it all wrong amid Wayne Rooney circus

England's Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

As Wayne Rooney was forced to issue a grovelling apology to the shell-shocked nation of England on Wednesday night, the sneering moral police toasted another famous victory.

Images of Rooney apparently drunk in the company of his England team-mates and some fans last Sunday were described by numerous self-absorbed, attention seeking observers as shocking, yet can anyone explain why a footballer having a few drinks seven days before his potential next match is an incident that demands a statement confessing shameful remorse?

It has been open season on Rooney’s ‘loutish’ behaviour in the English media over the last 48 hours, with a player who has been on the wrong end of media headlines for a long time finally hung out to dry after he used a sanctioned team bonding session to drink a few too many beers.

When you hear details of the scandalous behaviour he indulged in, the scale of his crimes are put into perspective. Apparently, amid his drunken tirade of happiness, Wazza tried to play the piano when he was a little worse for wear and he even gave his sponsored English kit to a fan. Can you imagine the horror of such an act of kindness….

This should be a non-story, yet there has been hours of bile muttered on radio shows and acres of print set aside for self-righteous fools who all seemed keen to suggest Rooney’s £300,000-a-week salary at United should mean that he is not seen to be drinking in such a ‘reckless’ manner.

On this basis, top footballers should not leave their homes from the moment they break into the first team until the day they announce their retirement, when presumably they are permitted by the guardians of decency to enjoy some leisure time doing whatever might take their fancy.

Rooney Alongside manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters
Rooney Alongside manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters

In the eyes of the self-appointed guardians of morality, the life of an A-list football has become a highly paid prison sentence lasting around 18 years, with the millions they earn only to be spent on high speed cars, the odd power boat and maybe (if they do really well) a Learjet that would allow them to get away from the nonsense that now surround them.

We don’t need to feel sorry for footballers as they earn too much money for that kind of sentiment to be appropriate, but they must feel like lottery winners who need to keep their success private and it does not need to be like this.

Are they meant to lock themselves in their mansions boasting the biggest gates on offer to protect them and only go out for training and matches? Is that the most fun they are allowed to have? Don’t let them enjoy their success, as after all, kids will be shocked if they see their heroes having fun.

Let’s be honest here, does anyone seriously see Wayne Rooney as a role model for the English nation after his history of sexual indiscretions with models and other alleged incidents with more mature ladies of the night?

Of course not. He is a footballer who has faults like all of us, but his drinking session last Sunday is not a stick that should be used to beat him with.

The debate over whether drinking alcohol is the right way to refuel the body is an issue most airing their expert opinion in recent days have little medical knowledge and in the opinion of Liverpool and Republic of Ireland legend John Aldridge, team bonding was one of the primary reasons why Jack Charlton’s legendary Ireland teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s had an edge over their rivals.

“I would get into trouble if I revealed some of the tales that went on with the Ireland teams at major tournaments,” remembers Aldridge fondly.

“The Ireland squads that competed at Euro 88, World Cup 1990 and USA’94 had an amazing time on and off the pitch, with the smiles we shared mixed with a determination to do Ireland proud as we put our country on the map in international football.

“Sadly, the world has changed since the days when the Ireland team I was proud to be a part of were playing in major finals, with the first trip to Germany in 1988 an experience none of us will ever forget.

“Don’t think for a moment that we spent all our time getting pissed and not paying attention to the job in hand on the pitch because that was never the case.

“The impression you might get from some of the tales that have emerged from Ireland trips down the years is that the lads all went away for a big piss-up and only stopped boozing to fit in a few matches. Let me tell you, it wasn’t like that at all.

“We were highly professional when it came to the build up to the matches, but Jack understood the need to let the lads have some time to relax when the moment was right.

“A few days before a game, he would let us go out and have a few beers and we took full advantage of the freedom.

“I remember the England lads back in 1988 and 1990 being jealous of the freedom we were getting, with the boys in our dressing room at Liverpool amazed by the laughs we had on Ireland trips.

“So while the England players were locked up in their hotel bored stiff and virtually needing to put a tie on to go to bed to confirm with their strict regime, we were out with the fans and joining in with the party. We knew that we were lucky to be in our environment and made the most of it. It’s a shame modern players are not as fortunate as we were.”

Aldridge speaks of more simple days, when football fans asked for a photo alongside their heroes with the intention of putting it in a frame on their mantelpiece.

In 2016, it seems that ‘supporters’ delight in taking photos of star names in unfortunate poses with the intention of selling them to a newspaper for a huge sum of cash. It is a nasty snippet of how our culture has changed over the last three decades.

The end result is that our sporting heroes no longer mingle freely with the common folk for fear of becoming the next victim of the kind of circus that has blown up around Rooney this week.

If Rooney’s boozing affects his form with United and England, he will not earn £300,000-a-week at Old Trafford any more and his days at the top of the game will come to an end. That is his problem and none of us should care whether he likes a drink in a spare time or not.

We should only judge him on a football pitch and anything else he gets up to is his own business.

Just for once, wouldn’t it be nice to see the mounted political correctness brigade step down from stallions and accept that footballers - or any personality for that matter - are allowed to let their hair down once in a while.

Sadly, in an era when those who want to tell is how to behave are given a far bigger platform than they are due, this argument may fall on deaf ears.

What a shame.

Online Editors

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