Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan: Wayne Rooney, Unlike Michael Owen, Does Not Suffer from Humility

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan: Wayne Rooney, Unlike Michael Owen, Does Not Suffer from Humility

Article excerpt

Is Wayne Rooney a genius? Can any footballer be a genius? Whatever happened to Michael Owen? Was he a genius? There are just so many difficult questions around at the moment. Why do footballers never dye their hair black? Now that is a hard one. I won't even try to explain it.


After one game for Man United, Rooney was hailed as the greatest Man U player in the history of civilisation as we know it--civilisation as we used to know it, looking back to players we never saw, games we weren't at, times we never experienced, but still confident enough to compare like with unlike and say: "Arise, Sir Wayne, a verie parfait knight." Apart, of course, from his horrible complexion, crap hair and disappearing eyes. And that he did nothing in his second game.

While the media have been ape-shitting, the real experts have been advising caution. Fergie, his manager, talks about Rooney's potential, about what might be "when Wayne gets over the adolescent development". Sensible Uncle Arsene predicts that Rooney will be at his best at 25,26, and then he should really be something. Me, I think this is obvious, boring, not to mention cobblers. I say bugger the future: let it take care of itself. A phenomenon is here and with us. The chances are that the best is NOW, for the simple reason that, although he might get more pots, he won't get better.

All walks of life, all activities, throw up geniuses from time to time, even in areas of life not always rated by virtually everyone else. I've met loads, from Lennon and McCartney to Alfred Wainwright. Now he was unique. Just look at his seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. Who else would have thought of doing them that way, entirely in his own hand, as fresh today as when the first book appeared 50 years ago?

Rooney has arrived fully formed at 18, the finished article. He can do everything in football, put his own boots on with either hand, wipe his bum while heading, pull on his own shirt, though in that first game he found it difficult. Did you notice that rip at the collar? I thought it was a fashion statement, a throwback to the 1930s, when shirts were laced up at the front. …

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