Spectator sport

The waning of Wayne

15 October 2016

9:00 AM

15 October 2016

9:00 AM

As the final chords of the Wagnerian epic that is ‘The Dropping of Wayne Rooney’ fade away, we can leave the auditorium to reflect on the momentous events we have just witnessed. Really, what a lot of fuss! Pages in the papers, endless phone-ins and enough online hot air to blow up a container-full of -Samsungs. But I suppose Rooney took it with grace and courage, insisting on facing the media alongside Gareth Southgate, the man who fired him, and saying he would always be available. Not walking off in a huff like other, more dislikeable players. Not mentioning any names, John Terry. He is a fine man, Rooney; not inarticulate, often amusing and a fine representative of what can on occasion really be the beautiful game.

Though there has been little sign of that in the two recent World Cup qualifiers. Really. what a lot of dross. England should have lost to Slovenia, saved only by a man who has been ditched by his club, Joe Hart. Will this change in a world without Rooney? Answers on a postcard please.

And this demotion had to happen. Rooney is getting on. He is slowing up a bit; full of ability still, but all around him the game is getting faster. England are brilliant at qualifying for major tournaments but hopeless at going further. A new long-term captain is needed and my money would be on John Stones, like Rooney a former Evertonian, now holding up the Man City defence. He is only 22 but shows great maturity on and off the field.

Offstage, a huge hand for Coleen Rooney, who took to Twitter to stand by her man. ‘Love the way anyone and everyone has to have an opinion,’ she said. ‘Some forget -others have feelings too… we’re not -plastic, he’s not plastic, we’re people.’ Don’t mess with the wives. Ever.

Why do sportsmen try to convince us they are not pleasant? Gareth Southgate said he might look like an estate agent but he’s not that nice a guy. -Really? He seems a thoroughly -splendid leader to me; thoughtful, bold and articulate. And here’s Jos Buttler, England one-day -cricket captain, after his X-rated rant at the Bangla-deshis: asked if it was the first time he’d lost his temper playing for England, he said: ‘Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.’ Buttler’s a wonderful player, but he shouldn’t have got that worked up at the Bangladeshis. I understand he gave them a fair bit of niggle from behind the stumps in the first one-dayer, which they miraculously managed to lose. So he got what he deserved.

European rugby returns this week-end, the only club tournament that is as tough as a training session with Eddie Jones. I hope the England coach picks up some tips for his endlessly restated quest to beat the New Zealanders. Good luck with that. On the evidence of the All Blacks’ 57-15 annihilation of South Africa they are so far ahead it is becoming ridiculous.

Spare a thought for Lewis Hamilton as his Formula One hopes start to slide off the track again. A senior politician once told me how much he regretted his meteoric dash from school to university and out again, -garlanded with honours before he was 20. What life could he have had by slowing down? Ditto with Lewis: all that absurd Insta-gramming, the girls, the partying, the surly withdrawal from press conferences — he’s having the childhood he missed by being a go-kart prodigy.

Ex-Kent and Derbyshire cricketer James Graham-Brown has a one-man show called When the Eye has Gone. It’s about Colin Milburn, one of sport’s most unlikely legends, and the injury that shortened his career. Set in a pub during Milburn’s final -cabaret performance as ‘Jolly Ollie’, it’s touring all the county grounds in November with proceeds to the Benevolent Fund of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. Keep an eye out for it.

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