Can the Old Trafford hero win back a nation’s affections?
It’s easier to fall out of love with a footballer player than it is to become attached in the first place.
To find affection for an opposition player is always going to be hard and yet, in Wayne Rooney, the football nation found someone they felt embodied how they felt. How they would play, how they would react.
A true working class hero if ever there was one, his faults were the ones we knew we may display ourselves should we have been fortunate enough to have been bestowed with a fraction of the talent.
In Germany four years ago, Wayne was all but forgiven as the blame for his sending off and subsequent depersonalisation went the way of club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. He became the pantomime villain required when England exit any competition.
Last year the majority of non Manchester United supporters were labelling the team a one man wonder and waiting for Wayne Rooney to unleash such effectiveness at the World Cup.
Except he didn’t.
The reaction that followed was predictable.
We give our own players the benefit of far less in the way of understanding when they fail. Fernando Torres has so far failed to display the talent we know he possesses in this tournament and yet we excuse this as the result of an injury we are told he has recovered from. Ribery is excused as his impotence is seen as a symptom of the farce that was the French squad.
Kaka stumbled through the tournament and had little to offer to his team when needed most. Even the demigod Messi, though no doubt showing signs of the player we know, has simply not taken what should have been the tournament which defined him by the scruff of the neck. Yet the majority find reasons to dilute these disappointments.
The fact is we weren’t in love with these players so didn’t have the level of feeling to reverse so dramatically. For many the feeling of being let down was akin to have been cheated on. If he can perform so well previously then why is he not returning the faith?
Does he not care for the belief we have shown, is he trying to embarrass us? Surely if he knew how the nation felt then he would not treat us like this. It’s the emotional connection that makes us so hurt and with our opinions clouded by these judgements he goes from ‘England’s Hope’ to ‘Manchester United’s Failure’.
It had all the aspects of an unrequited love affair.
People who had previously said he carried his club were turning their views of him to an overrated striker who only scores tap ins and has to have the team built around him.
Wayne Rooney had earned our affections through qualifying and many had begrudgingly kept an optimistic eye on his club performances.
He was meant to be The One and this was meant to be his time. More so, this was meant to be our time.
Was he our worst performer? Probably not, but we had expected so much that a failure to live up to these expectations was always going to lead to a feeling of being cheated. Personally let down by the wonder boy who many now said had become a spoilt man.
Previously when we heard of his multimillion pound Barbados villa we had sniggered at the thought of the upper-class jet set being usurped by the boy wonder from Croxteth. Now the man, and his family, holidaying there seemed almost an affront to the way we were feeling.
Prior to the tournament the talk had been of his temperament, despite his recent excellent disciplinary record. All press conferences were geared toward asking players, any players, what they thought of Wayne and how he may react.
Is it a coincidence that given this outside personal evaluation on a daily basis, he turned to his religion which could be seen with the increasingly appearance of rosary beads and hints that he was seeking a higher approval. Not that he was showing the religious Tourettes so readily displayed by a generation of South Americans, more that he was obviously looking for solace somewhere.
The question we need to be asking ourselves is what we can do for the future of England which, whether anyone likes it nor not, will be linked with Wayne Rooney.
The nation and their knee jerk feelings can continue to haunt Wayne Rooney as long as they want but the crux of it is they’ll probably harm their own football ambitions more than anything else.
You’ll fall back in love with Wayne, you’ll need to.