Wayne Rooney’s England generation defined by records

By on September 8, 2015

Well, that’s over then. The English national team can carry on. After sealing qualification for Euro 2016 earlier in the summer, the entirety of the English national team setup could focus two international matches with the primary purpose of bringing Wayne Rooney past Bobby Charlton’s record tally of forty-nine goals for England. Finally, Rooney achieved the feat via a penalty in England’s 2-0 won over Switzerland, thus preventing another month of waiting before – here it comes – another international break.

And you know what? The broader outlook for the national team is none for the better or worse. Records are just numbers. It’s a monumental number, but it’s still just a number. They’re meant to be cherished, but mainly as an affirmation of the individual achievements in the team sport. Charlton, by contrast, had his World Cup before he had the record.

For Rooney, however, the record has defined his career, perhaps more than he would have liked. The moments of class and power, the joy that Rooney has given English fans for over a decade, have been defined by a figure as bland as a number.

It’s just the latest example of a famous yet underachieving England generation. For instance, there were five future England centurions in The Three Lion’s 2006 Quarterfinal meeting with Portugal, yet they lost on penalties. Steven Gerrard may have had a stellar penalty record for Liverpool, but missed a crucial penalty in that shootout.

England had the talent, only to come up just short every time. It’s rather ironic that the two goals to take Rooney level with, then above Charlton’s record came from the penalty spot given England’s shambolic shootout record during the forward’s career. Rooney has made all six of his penalties for England, yet in their defeat to Italy in Euro 2012 was his sole success in a shootout.

Tonight, England spent much of its ninety minutes setting up Rooney for his goal, and after Harry Kane scored in a well-taken finish — his third in his first four caps — Raheem Sterling won a penalty that Rooney converted. The next generation lifted Rooney across the line in something of a passing of the torches.

Rooney will likely still be crucial for England next summer in France but potentially much less so in the 2018 World Cup, by which time he’ll be thirty-two-years-old. For the sake of England’s future, it’s time to give Kane’s generation a shot. With Saido Berahino and Raheem Sterling alongside Kane and Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryan Mason supporting them (further back, they have Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Eric Dier, Nathaniel Clyne and John Stones), maybe this time around England, with expectations recalibrated, can come close to winning trophies. They won’t soon surpass the records that the likes of Frank Lampard, Gerrard, David Beckham, Ashley Cole and Rooney set, but they might just be able to bring international titles home.

Photo credit: Ian C, via Flickr

About Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, founder of Football Every Day, lives and breaths football from the West Coast of the United States in California. Aside from founding Football Every Day in January of 2013, Alex has also launched his own journalism career and hopes to help others do the same with FBED. He covers the San Jose Earthquakes as a beat reporter for QuakesTalk.com and his work has also been featured in the BBC's Match of the Day Magazine.