Wayne Rooney has not had many words of support since revelations were aired about his private life in a Sunday newspaper. There was, however, an indication of tacit support and understanding from his England colleague Steven Gerrard this week. When asked of the story at a press conference, the England and Liverpool skipper said, “Who am I to talk about things like that with Wayne Rooney? He’s his own man.” He proceeded to articulate that the lows in a player’s career can make you better and stronger. The midfielder, who Fabio Capello is said to be considering as the national side’s permanent captain, was making a salient point which could apply to the whole squad. Can adversity on and off the field make you hungrier to succeed?
Having won the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League by the age of 25, Gerrard’s career does not appear littered with disappointments. Yet in a candid press conference the Liverpool favourite did explain, in light of Rooney’s predicament, how on and off field dramas had affected him. He recounted Liverpool’s Champions League group stage exit in the 2002/03 season when his performance was criticised by Gerard Houllier. Distressed by the divorce of his parents, he was substituted at half time in Liverpool’s draw against FC Basel and incurred the wrath of the Houllier.
Away from the pitch, Gerrard has faced the throes of a court case following a brawl in a Merseyside bar. He claimed to have acted in self defence and was subsequently cleared of affray. Gerrard said, “I’m glad to put this case behind me. I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on my football.” The season ahead brought little solace from these events as Liverpool failed to reach the knockout phase of the Europe’s premier club competition, fell at the semi-final stage in the Europa League and finished seventh in the division. Add to that the major disappointment of England’s World Cup campaign and it has not been the best year for 30-year old.
He has inferred that he played some of his best football last season during the court case and espoused the view that the pitch could be a sanctuary for the besieged Rooney. The striker scored within ten minutes against Switzerland on Tuesday. Gerrard, who has been inspirational for England in recent games, hailed Rooney’s terrific and focused performance. The Manchester United forward scored his first international goal in over a year and was able to concentrate on his game after a traumatic week. That may not be as straightforward at Goodison Park this weekend but it is crucial that he is able to channel his frustration and negative energy. But for players under strain, is it as simple as redoubling your efforts, neglecting damaging stories and pulling up your proverbial socks?
“You learn from experience,” Gerrard said. “I am the player I am today from learning and recovering from my lows.” Regardless of effort and renewed spirit there is only so much one player can achieve on the pitch. The lows are undoubtedly a part of the journey but the loyal support of a manager is fundamental. Gerrard had that privilege with Rafa Benitez and John Terry enjoyed the confidence of Carlo Ancelotti last season after endless press headlines. Rooney will have that reassuring presence in the form of Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello. The England manager urged the player to separate the private and the public. Learning from your mistakes and putting in determined performances is the most effective way of silencing the critics and improving as a player.
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David Beckham has been talking about Rooney too: