Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lay off Rooney, the Guy Deserves a (Fag) Break

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lay off Rooney, the Guy Deserves a (Fag) Break

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

IF there are two better stress relievers than a nice fag and a wazz up against a wall, then you'd better tell me what they are. If you've never tried either -- or, preferably, the two at once -- then I'm telling you kids, you've not felt bliss.

All this business about tweaking on Wayne Rooney for getting on it up in Manchester until the early hours last Sunday is such a sanctimonious load of old tosh.

You might feel that drinking, fagging, slashing and chanting is uncouth and a wee bit (sorry) unprofessional but, let's be honest, are you really shocked? If you are, get a grip. It may be pre-season, when rich football players are supposed to be sprinting and conditioning, tuning their valuable bodies for the labours of the season to come, but sometimes you have to give a man a break.

Part of getting ready for the new season is surely enjoying the short time that you have away from competitive football to let off some steam -- or in this case, some steaming ... actually, that's enough potty talk.

The point is this. Rooney has had a rough couple of months, by his high standards.

He looked pallid at the end of last season, clearly hampered by an ankle injury. He carried this, and the exhaustion of a season in which he carried the can (sorry, that was honestly unintentional) for a developing Manchester United side, into the World Cup.

At the World Cup, he played in a formation that totally misused him.

All season at United he had prospered leading the line, staying in the box, latching onto fast service from Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ji-Sung Park out wide.

For England, he was expected to play sous chef to a great lummox like Emile Heskey and the unremarkable Jermain Defoe.

He played in front of a stodgy fourman midfield of the sort that United ditched around the turn of the century. Because he was England's best player on paper, he took the most stick when the team underperformed.

Not that this should mask the fact that he did look seriously off-beam: frustrated with himself, at odds with some of his team-mates, angry at the jeering crowds; ready for a good long break, in fact.

A barrage of statistics have since singled him out as England's worst player. (How Matthew Upson dodged that bullet, I shall never know. …

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