Wednesday 18 September 2019

Sam Wallace: 'Moving to Derby gives Rooney opportunity to tackle tired old prejudice'

 

The notion that Rooney falls short intellectually to be a manager is part of the tired old prejudice that has always existed against him. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
The notion that Rooney falls short intellectually to be a manager is part of the tired old prejudice that has always existed against him. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

Sam Wallace

The long journey into Major League Soccer was embarked upon much too early in his career by Wayne Rooney, to a country where the game is the subject of earnest development but, for reasons that can be hard to fathom, can still feel a little confected.

That is not to diminish the efforts of MLS, but whatever Rooney specialises in it was never the public relations role spreading the word in new markets.

He was born for the old rivalries of the English game and when he did at last depart in June last year for the United States and DC United, it was a personal view then that he would enjoy the mayhem of a Championship season much more.

Derby County will offer him that, and more, as the club trying to break the habit of falling just short of Premier League promotion.

As a coach Rooney will offer in an official capacity what he has already done for years as a senior player, advising the young players around him how to handle the game's outrageous fortunes. No one has scaled those peaks, and fallen quite so hard at times, as the greatest English player of the last decade.

Losses

Indeed, the mind drifts back to the vast losses Rooney (below) was alleged to have suffered in a Manchester casino two years ago - a total of £500,000 in one night. It makes you wince to think that it has taken a bookmaker's money to bring him back to England.

The Derby shirt sponsor 32Red is proving that in English football you can have what you want providing the money is right.

There was a time when the debate was whether the generation launched upon England careers in the first half of the last decade would ever see the inside of a manager's office given the wages lavished upon them as players.

The reality has been that Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Sol Campbell and now Rooney have never considered doing anything else in the long-term, and more will follow.

Rooney is different to those three former team-mates and yet the notion that he falls short intellectually to be a manager is part of the tired old prejudice that has always existed against him.

He has lived his life, as a teenager and then an adult, in the public sphere. He has made mistakes but even his most committed detractors would concede that he has matured. As for his experience of the game: there is no one who comes close.

To put it much more simply, there have, over the years, been some managerial careers quarried out of material infinitely more defective than that which went into making a 120-cap, 53-goal, England captain with five Premier League titles and a Champions League to his name.

His career is not in doubt and while this should be the time when he enjoys that seniority it is impossible to imagine him approaching a midweek away at Oakwell with any less intensity than that with which he would once walk into Anfield.

He will not be able to play all 46 Championship games, and he may well fall short some weeks, but there will be a guarantee of some sublime moments that only a truly gifted footballer can summon. That is what makes this final chapter to Rooney's career such a treat.

It will be fascinating over the years to see how he adapts as a coach, with the demands that makes in terms of diplomacy and recruitment and tactical acumen.

But for the next 12 months at least, Rooney is still a footballer, a wonderfully gifted player in a great league summoning the last embers of his immense talent, and on his day a real pleasure to watch.

Telegraph.co.uk

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