Magazine article The Spectator

The Sun's Treatment of Wayne Rooney Is Barmy Even by Its Own Standards

Magazine article The Spectator

The Sun's Treatment of Wayne Rooney Is Barmy Even by Its Own Standards

Article excerpt

Gentle readers of this column may not see the News of the World or the Sun very often, so they may he unaware that both Murdoch papers have gone bonkers in the grip of Rooney-mania. It started on Sunday with the News of the World devoting its front page and four inside pages to the life story of the footballer Wayne Rooney. It was comic stuff. We learnt that Wayne fell for his fiancée Colleen as he mended her bike chain. Love blossomed as they sneaked behind a local church for their first kiss, and they celebrated their engagement by watching EastEnders. Wayne and Colleen then spent their first night alone in a Marriott hotel.

The editor of the News of the World has a far better idea than I do of what his readers want, but I find it difficult to believe that they enjoyed wading through these treacly trivia. The Sunday Mirror in the meantime had bought up the Murdoch newspapers' former hero, David Beckham, who was revealed to be renewing his wedding vows in Morocco with Posh. Possibly this was a very slightly more arresting story.

One might have thought that the NoW had got everything out of young Wayne that it was possible to do, but the Sun seized the baton with enthusiasm on Monday, presumably because the Murdoch chequebook had been lavished and the newspaper felt that it should try to get its money's worth. We were treated to more stories about Wayne and Colleen, as well as an encomium by Wayne to his new mentor, David Beckham. Tuesday brought a front page in which Wayne confessed that he had nearly given up football, a theme developed at some length on the inside. On Wednesday we were told that there was a backlash in Liverpool against Wayne because of his association with the Sun. It was at this stage that the paper really lost the plot, devoting a rambling and often illogical full-page leader to Wayne and the supposed backlash against him. It contrived to link his alleged persecution to its own error 15 years ago in criticising Liverpool fans after the Hillsborough disaster. One passage made me seriously worry for the sanity of the Sun's editor, Rebekah Wade: 'Fifteen years ago the Sun made a mistake over Hillsborough, for which we are truly sorry. But it is wrong to visit our past sins on Wayne Rooney.'

Eh? The Sun has given over so many pages to Wayne Rooney that it regards his interests and its own as indistinguishable. Or had it built him up as a sacrificial victim? Even as it clasps the green young footballer to its bosom, one can foresee the eventual betrayal. The Sun loved Paul Gascoigne once and forsook him. David Beckham used to be the apple of its eye. The time will come when Wayne and Colleen are portrayed in a very different light. They have been built up and they will one day be cast down.

Yet even by its own standards the Sun's treatment of Wayne seems wildly overblown. It is not often that one sees a newspaper behaving in so barmy a fashion. Is Rebekah everything she has been cracked up to be? This leads me to a wider question about all of Rupert Murdoch's editors in this country. Only John Witherow of the Sunday Times could be described as a very safe pair of hands. People are so used to taking it for granted that Mr Murdoch is a kind of diabolical genius that they cannot easily conceive of the old boy getting things badly wrong by appointing a duff editor. But even accomplished masters can lose their touch. …

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