Four goals in Euro 2004 and despite England’s early exit in the tournament, Wayne Rooney became England’s greatest obsession. The 17 year old was now expected to shoulder the whole nation’s footballing dreams. A nation craving for glory since that blessed night in 1966 at the ‘Cathedral of football’- Wembley. Fast forward to 2012, The Three Lions exit the Euros in the Quarter finals on penalties (surprise surprise!) and English coach Roy Hodgson goes on record to say, “Of course, I think we put a lot of expectations on him. When he missed the first two games, we all believed that what we need to do now is get to the third game and Wayne Rooney will win us the championship,”
Has the 25 year old been bogged down by irrepressible expectations of his talent and like Atlas is he doomed to carry it till the end of his footballing career?
And here shifting some of the blame on the English fans would not be improper. Wayne Rooney has been one of the Premier League’s foremost scorers in the past few seasons but at Manchester United he is aided by a support cast that hails from across Europe and South America that satiate his goal scoring need through consistent service from the flanks. While England does have a similar setup to the Red devils, the components within either team differ and hence, expecting the striker to deliver with equal zest on the International stage is unrealistic. Spain on the other hand has a team composed, primarily, of two teams – Real Madrid and Barcelona. The only change is a kit change.
Furthermore, the striker is one of the few players in the English team who can be considered world class. England aren’t nearly as qualified in midfield or at the full back positions as some of the top quality international sides and that deficit has increasingly widened as nations have invested more and more in their youth programs. While movies can be carried forward on the performance of one actor, a football match is almost impossible to win, mooching off the shoulders of one player.
The flipside of the argument is simple. Stars abound everywhere and yet they find a way to either ignore or accept the blinding expectation. However, one must consider the fact that strikers suffer from the misfortune of having a very tangible form of evaluation – goals. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, like Rooney, face the wrath of the fans for their inability to translate club performance onto the International stage but after gruesome domestic seasons, expecting a player to recreate his form in a major tournament, a fortnight later, is unrealistic. That kind of thing happens on a PS3 not in the real world.