8 Dec 2011

Can Wayne Rooney’s temper be tamed?

As Wayne Rooney’s England ban is reduced to two matches, football commentator and author John Anderson writes for Channel 4 News on the striker’s history of disciplinary problems.

England striker Wayne Rooney whose three match international ban has been cut to two games (Reuters)

England striker Wayne Rooney will be eligible to play the in the final match of next summer’s Euro 2012 group after a successful appeal against the three match ban imposed by uefa in October. The suspension was reduced to two games after the England striker and coach Fabio Capello added their weight to the Football Association legal team’s representations, at a disciplinary hearing in Nyon.

So, twelve hours after Manchester United’s painful Champions League exit in Basel, the England striker finally got a positive result in Switzerland. He will now be eligible to face co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19.

Rooney must come to appreciate that appearances at major tournaments are only occasional privileges which must be treasured.

Having travelled 100 miles south to the shores of Lake Geneva and still wearing his United blazer and club tie, Rooney lined up alongside manager Fabio Capello and a heavyweight Football Association legal team to hear the verdict. It was to be the one he and the nation wanted, after what turned out to be a surprisingly brief appearance.

FA input helped

The fact that the whole process was wrapped up in less time than the 90 minutes playing time which Rooney has redeemed, suggests the uefa panel’s minds may have been largely made up prior to the hearing itself. This would bear great testament to the thoroughness of the FA’s preparations and the quality of their submissions.

But perhaps the man the whole of England should be queuing up to buy a drink, is a tall, 32 year old from the small town of Plav who is currently employed by the splendidly named Spartak Nalchik. That, in case you are wondering, is a Russian football club and not a trendy milk bar from “A Clockwork Orange”.

Let us hope that the reprieve will inspire this flawed genius to examine his own excesses.

Miodrag Dzudovic was the victim of the inexplicably stupid assault from behind which led to Rooney’s red card against Montenegro in Podgorica, and he is clearly a man of scrupulous integrity. Rather than making a career as “the man who got Rooney the axe”, he chose to write an impassioned plea to Michel Platini in mitigation of his assailant. His assertion that the punishment did not fit the crime appears to have struck a chord with the uefa president.

Rooney on report

What a lot Rooney could learn from Dzudovic’s magnanimous gesture. The caveat to this appeal victory is that the reduction of the ban is suspended for four years and so, if Rooney were to behave in an equally ridiculous manner whilst on international duty, the full three match ban would be reinstated.

Given that England will only play friendly matches between now and the summer, it seems unlikely that it would affect Rooney’s participation against Ukraine, but it could have serious ramifications for England’s subsequent World Cup qualification campaign.

Although he has spent his entire adult life in the harshest of spotlights, Rooney is now 26 not 16. He must come to appreciate that appearances at major tournaments are only occasional privileges which must be treasured.

A combination of hot-headedness, injury and loss of form have meant that England’s most naturally-gifted player has yet to really produce the performances in major tournaments that his talents warrant, and he may only have three or four more opportunities to put that right.

So, although this news is good, it must be accompanied by a healthy dose of reality and context. The fact still remains that Rooney’s own reckless ill-discipline has weakened England considerably for the opening two Euro 2012 group games against France and Sweden.

Let us hope that they are still in contention by the time he lines up for the third. But let us hope, more fervently, that the reprieve will inspire this flawed genius to examine his own excesses and force a reassessment of his mindset in the run up to big games.

We do not want to witness any further episodes of fly hacking opponents, haranguing referees, gratuitous swearing or directing abuse at fans via television cameras in any of the warm-up friendlies next year.

Even Rooney’s not that stupid, surely.

You can follow John Anderson on Twitter via @GreatFaceRadio