Mickey Blue Eyes
So now, after a lot of hoo-ha, Wayne Rooney has signed a new five years contract for his current employers. And it has left an awful lot of people with egg on their faces after it introduced yet another phoney "debate" into the footy ether. It may or may not have been a ploy to get more money, but I neither know or care. Contract negotiations can go in many different directions before signatures go on the dotted line.
However, the main issue, lest it be forgotten, is whether Wayne has the right to decide his own future for his own reasons, whatever they may be. Since we live in a nominal democracy both you and Wayne have got that right. Accordingly, there is no reason whatever why you should be able to exercise it and Wayne not. That is the law and in this case the law is right. So, that aside, what are we faced with here?
Well, first of all let's take the televised rant of Blackpool manager Ian Holloway, in which he yelled, "We're royt and they're wrong." He implied that it is UEFA and FIFA who are "wrong." I'm still not sure who "we" are. But actually he might as well know who to "blame," and it is the European Union employment laws......which in this case are impeccable. The football authorities have merely complied with the law with one or two minor contractual adjustments. By the time Ian's nonsense had finished there was little question the best thing he could do was go and lie down in a darkened room. It might have made for reasonable infotainment but as presentation of a case goes it was as useful as an ice cream sun hat. He even said something along the lines of, "Someone said, 'At 24 you can go and do what you want,' that can't be royt," and, "He belongs to them".........thus demonstrating that he didn't have - let's be charitable here - a reasonable grasp of either the law or human rights. Someone should tell him that, well, yes, you can go and do what you want at 24 if you haven't breached your contract of employment; the age of majority in this country is 18. Furthermore, Wayne sold his services, not his person. And it would take a monumental act of wilful ignorance to claim Rooney has not delivered during his time at the wrong end of the East Lancashire Road. For whatever reason he now wants to move on and sell his services elsewhere. The reason is immaterial. It is his right.
This development has Evertonians smiling with a sense of deep satisfaction because it is a repeat of the episode when Rooney left Us saying the same things through his much-despised agent, Paul Stretford. At the time I said his talents belonged to him alone and he had the right to sell them to whoever he wanted. That remains just as true now as it was then. Had he left the Manchester club the same would have applied to his next club too. It is his life and nobody - nobody - has the right to tell him what to do with it. That applies to Alex Ferguson as much as it does to the accountants, pr spivs, lawyers and other shysters who undoubtedly surround him. I wished him good luck when he left Us and I wish him good luck now. He is a great player who could become greater still. He owes the Mancs precisely nothing. He kept his side of the bargain.
The whole episode once again raises the question of "loyalty" and "player power" in football. This was given added pique when Roy Keane was asked in a TV interview what advice he would give the footy genius. He answered shortly, "Look after number one." In the kind of society we have created it was the soundest advice anybody could offer. Wayne would be well advised to take it. Before he knows it his playing days will be over and he will have to decide what to do with the rest of his life, which, with luck, will be the majority of it. Why be surprised if he treats football like a commodity if the game and its rulers treat him like a bale of cotton? And if fans are all too ready to vilify a loss of form, what does he owe them? Where power is concerned the reality is players have scarcely exercised any in an organised sense. The only notable power they have used is in their contractual negotiations. There have been no widespread player strikes or disputes worthy of the name, not even following widespread redundancies and bankruptcies after yet another international banking scam fucked everyone's life yet again.
But before anybody lines up Wayne Rooney as some sort of scapegoat or revenge figure they would do well to consider much wider issues than football. They could start with media ownership and control - they could ask why its owners and editors have elevated this to constant prime time coverage as though it was of vast importance when all it is actually is somebody who wants to change his employer. They could ask why the same people deem it necessary to stick their noses into Rooney's private life. They could ask too what measures need to be taken to convert the game to a majority community-owned sport instead of a profiteering scam and pension scheme for the rich. Perhaps, though, this is too intellectually demanding in a society which has been dumbed-down, tribalised and persuaded to attack its most vulnerable citizens. Rooney may not be vulnerable but he is certainly an easy target......and a useful minor one to divert attention from the current government rip off.
If ever there was an illustration of the illusions the game fosters, and always has fostered, it is the sight and sound of some Evertonians talking of his possible return to the club. You will probably find these are the same people who barrack him to the echo whenever he returns to Goodison. While nothing much surprises me in football I have to say this notion is fatuous, unless he gets a sudden surge of altruism.
As for his present club, its manager and fans, I haven't the slightest sense of sympathy for any of them. I have no doubt at all that club went out of their way to entice him there in the first place and used every media lever (and other "doubtful" means) they could to prise him away. Now they have used the same media to portray him as disloyal and grasping - some of the BBC TV coverage has been particularly disgusting, as you would expect with their regional studio not far from his present stadium.
In short, I hope Wayne secures his future, and becomes an even greater player than he already is. If that had meant him moving on I would have had no quibble either. But for his own sake I hope he keeps his talented feet on the ground. After all, he was at one time One of Us.