Last weekend saw Wayne Rooney reach another milestone in his football career. The England international netted twice in the 5-0 demolition of Wigan and secured his 100th goal for the club in the process of doing so.
Compared to many of the faceless players that grace the Premier League, Rooney has enjoyed a colourful life. His high-impact introduction to professional football ended with the winning goal against Arsenal who were still Champions of England at the time.
Since then, Rooney has made headlines for a variety of reasons. There’s been a respectable football career that still has its best days to come, a high-profile relationship with his childhood sweetheart and an equally exciting relationship with \’Auld Slapper’ at £45 a time.
There’s also been that famous dismissal against Portugal in 2006 for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho and a nightclub incident that rumbled on for far longer than was absolutely necessary thanks to The Sun and The News of the World.
Unfortunately, none of this actually endears me to the boy.
I’m sure he’s a decent enough lad and a good laugh on a night out but he still doesn’t tick all the boxes for hero status in my eyes.
Proper heroes in football seem to have died off a long time ago. Strangely enough, their cult status used to have as much to do with their behaviour off the pitch as on it.
Frank Worthington, Peter Osgood, George Best and Alan Hudson spring to mind as players who lived life to the full at every level. Even Paul Gascoigne has managed to cling onto their coat-tails as some sort of latter day version of a dying breed.
A series of biographies, autobiographies and nights on the dinner circuit have led to countless fantastic tales that football fans love to relive during drunken days out with their pals.
But footballers just don’t seem to do the hero thing anymore. It’s simply become a case of do the job, get paid and bank the money for most of them.
Wayne Rooney, for my money, is as close as they come. Unfortunately, the appeal of the vulnerable player used to lay in the fact that for most of the time they were exactly the same as the rest of us. Work hard, get paid and lash it up the wall with your pals! The working class game played by working class men. It all used to be so perfect.
Today, players can’t wait to leave their roots behind and settle down into the Cheshire stockbroker belt as soon as the first cheque clears in the bank. I sit here and struggle to find heroes in today’s game that I can identify with anymore.
Even the recent Steve Gerrard case had a ring of plasticity to it. Sure, the lad was out drinking and throwing his fists around (in self defence) but you just seemed to get the impression that it was a one-off, spur of the moment thing and he hadn’t met up with his pals the following lunchtime to laugh about it, top up and start all over again.
I’m not advocating bullish, drunken behaviour as sorts. I just miss personality in top-level footballers. Watching teams in the lower tiers of English football is refreshing in that players are more human, friendly and approachable. But I could never imagine having a beer with Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres in the same way I’d have loved a night on the sauce with Jimmy Greaves or Stan Bowles.
Unfortunately, this new breed of player fails to excite me at pretty much every level and the game, and the world in general, is a sadder place for it.