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Rooney makes perfect response

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08 Sep 2010 08:07:22

Rooney makes perfect response

Was anyone really surprised? A man who has defied belief since bursting on to the scene as a precocious 16-year-old, how else would Wayne Rooney respond in arguably his darkest hour? Amid sordid allegations about the Manchester United striker's private life, England captain Steven Gerrard remarked that even footballers are human. The thing about Rooney is that his entire career has been built around the notion that he is more than a mere mortal. Whether it was his stunning strike against Arsenal when barely out of short trousers at Everton, his outstanding displays at Euro 2004 or his debut hat-trick upon his £25m move to United, his career has been right out of the pages of a comic book. So when Glen Johnson's 10th minute cross rolled across the six-yard box, who else but Rooney would be on the end of it? He will rarely score a simpler goal for his country, but given the week he's had, it was heaven sent. Without an international goal in 2010 including a miserable World Cup, when his relationship with the supporters was tested to the limit how Rooney will have delighted at seeing the ball nestle in the back of the net. Emotion Not that it was greeted with any explosion of emotion rather a restrained fist pump, which probably pointed to his acceptance that there is still a long road ahead. None of the allegations into his private life have been proven but that will matter little on the terraces from Tyneside to London's East End as opposition fans revel in his personal woes. Such is Rooney's celebrity that there is nowhere to hide. Even with such a carefully sculpted public image, the 24-year-old is not impervious to adverse publicity. He is rewarded well for his fame around £140,000 a week at United, with a new contract set to be signed, as well as his numerous endorsements. But for football fans, it is on the pitch where he will ultimately be judged and where more often than not, he has delivered last night included. In the bosom of England's hardcore travelling faithful, he was given a generous reception in Switzerland. It might have been a very different story had it been in front of the day-trippers at Wembley as discovered by John Terry and Ashley Cole when they endured their own personal problems. But Rooney may find things different when back in his club colours and he could hardly have asked for a more daunting trip than a return to Goodison Park on Saturday. Relations between the striker and the fans he used to share a stand with when an Everton supporter himself, are frayed beyond repair. Abuse The subject of intense abuse from the people who used to idolise him each time he returns to his spiritual home, the revelations by Jennifer Thompson will only provide his detractors with another stick to beat him with. Whether that will be replicated up and down the land remains to be seen. And whether it will be too much for the broadest of shoulders will also become apparent in the weeks and months ahead. So far, in his short career, Rooney has displayed a near superhuman ability to cope with the pressures of a modern-day footballer. Whether it be the expectation of being a nation's saviour, the talisman of the biggest club in the world or one half of the glossy magazines' dream couple Rooney has handled it with consummate ease. An ease not dissimilar to the manner in which Tiger Woods coped with being the most recognisable face in the history of sport. For the best part of 15 years Woods seemed impregnable, dominating the world of golf and changing the face of sports merchandising, before revelations about his own private life came to light last year. The iceman finally melted with an alarming dip in form in light of the breakdown of his marriage and has had to rely on a wild card pick to make the USA's Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor next month. If last night was anything to go by, Rooney looks far from being weighed down under the pressure of his off-the-field concerns. But if ever there was a story to serve as a warning to the forward, it is that of Woods'.


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