Rooney and others

If what Wayne Rooney got up to with those excesses was gross, it pales into insignificance when compared with the multiple infidelities of Tiger Woods, though his liaisons were seemingly conducted with non-professionals. Besides, when it comes to matters of morality in football, where do you draw the line? Over to Brian Glanville.

The Wayne Rooney drama, if that is what we should call it, drags on and sordidly on. We know all too well what he did. We know that not only his marriage but his vastly remunerative deal with Coca-Cola — which, some cynics suggest, may have mattered almost as much to him — were put in jeopardy. Fabio Capello will never drop him from the England team, and why at this point should he? If he deserved to be dropped at all it was surely after the recent World Cup, when he played so abominably badly, virtually condemning England to disaster. Since then he has turned in two impressive performances for his country and Capello couldn't take away the captaincy from him, as he did when John Terry kicked over the traces, since he wasn't the captain in the first place.

Diplomatically, or so it seemed, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United Manager, left Rooney out of the team to play at Everton, his first club whose fans have never forgiven him for leaving them as a brilliant teenager for Old Trafford. Rooney himself reportedly wanted to play. The Everton manager, David Moyes, took a somewhat moralistic tone, asserting that “The manager there knows what he is doing, so perhaps he was just making sure everybody realises that if you play for Manchester United, you have to conduct yourself in a manner and our club doesn't really care who you are.”

Clumsily expressed and arrant nonsense anyway. It took a female Sunday columnist to evoke the torrid memory of United's orgiastic Christmas Party of 2007. Then Ferguson was perfectly happy to let the players whip round to hire a complete hotel and fill it up with girls, brought in from here and there. As you may surmise, the evening was not devoted to dancing and polite conversation. Did Ferguson ever think it would be?

One disgusted girl said afterwards that she was “treated like a piece of meat.” Deplorable indeed: But what did she expect? Afterwards, a girl accused the teenaged Ulsterman Evans of rape. It seemed a most unlikely charge against a naive young player, and eventually the charge was dropped.

I am not trying to exonerate Rooney. Put bluntly, he is an irredeemable lout with an exceptional talent. And if what he got up to with those 12 pounds a time prostitutes was gross, it pales into insignificance when compared with the multiple infidelities of Tiger Woods, though his liaisons were seemingly conducted with non-professionals.

Besides, when it comes to matters of morality in football, where do you draw the line? A male columnist, a couple of days after Rooney missed the match at Everton, reproached those who felt that Steven Gerrard should remain captain of England when Rio Ferdinand another Manchester United player, for whom Evans has been deputising with mixed success, returns. Here, morality has surely gone out of the window. Ferdinand and Frank Lampard of Chelsea were not so long ago reported to have indulged in group excesses, which they duly filmed, on holiday in Cyprus. Moreover, Ferdinand it was who incurred an eight-month suspension for dodging a dope test at United's training ground. As for John Terry, Chelsea and England centre half, a married man, he had the England captaincy taken away from him when he was found to have been having an affair with the former fiancee of the England reserve left back, Wayne Bridge: who withdrew from international football.

In parenthesis, you wonder why such emphasis is placed on the role of England's captaincy. For what, by and large, does a captain do? Apart that is from tossing up before the game? By comparison with a cricket captain who, in the field, deputes his bowlers and deploys his fielders, the football captaincy is a sinecure. It's the manager or coach who directs things from the dug out. Now and then there is an exception to prove the rule such as Danny Blanchflower, right half and skipper of Spurs and Northern Ireland some forty years ago, whose acute tactical intelligence enabled him to make significant changes during a game.

Rooney off the field is a crude and abrasive figure, on the field as well at times. In a pre-World Cup warm-up game, he swore at the South African referee. After an England fiasco, coming off the field, he swore at booing fans. Back in England, he distinguished himself one night by urinating in the street and horror of horrors, smoking a cigarette!

But the irony of it all is that while Rooney was being put through the mangle for his sordid liaisons, no fewer than three other England players had successfully taken out gagging injunctions to prevent the publication of articles reporting their various alliances. Why Rooney didn't do so is obscure. It was suggested that he'd have been unable to do so because he had “Form”: As a 16-year-old, it was recorded, he had in Liverpool frequented a 48-year-old prostitute known as “The Auld Slapper.”

The truth is that the present generation of leading footballers is no better and no worse than those who preceded it in past generations. They simply have immensely more money at a dangerously early age. So they can fall prey to unscrupulous women — not necessarily prostitutes, as in the embarrassing recent case of the foolish chief executive of the football association, Lord Triesman — who tell their tale to an ever rapacious press.

So the footballers, almost all millionaires, patrons of flashy, costly night clubs in the very centre of London's fashionable west end, find themselves besieged by lubricious women. Pre-war footballers, on a maximum of eight pounds a week, could hardly aspire to such excesses. So today's players can, all too easily, unsophisticated and ill educated as most of them are, be caught between the upper and the nether millstone.

Rooney's nemesis, the privately educated, of all things, Jennifer Thompson, has appeared in a television clip, offering her sympathy to Coleen, Rooney's offended wife. Shameless is as shameless does. It won't placate Coca-Cola.