by Rob Shepherd.
Wayne Rooney failed to fill his boots in the 5-0 sleepwalk over San Marino last week but a penalty in that game then his free-kick strike in the 1-0 win over Estonia has edged him closer to Bobby Charlton’s England goal record of 49.
As it stands only Jimmy Greaves (44) and Gary Lineker (48) are ahead of Rooney who is now on 43 after that goal in Tallin, struck ironically just before manager Roy Hodgson was about to take him off, such had been his profligacy prior to then.
So Rooney is on the threshold of a great achievement in the history of the English game, but greatness..?
Without taking anything away from Rooney there are more ‘cheap’ international goals about than there were in Lineker’s day let alone in the Greaves and Charlton era. There are more internationals, too.
For the record Greaves’ haul of 44 came in just 57 games. Lineker’s 48 came in 80 matches. It took Charlton, who don’t forget was a winger turned midfielder rather than a striker, 106 for his 49. In that respect Rooney’s ratio is similar. On November 15 at Wembley he is set win his 100th cap against Slovenia.
It is pointed out that Rooney has scored more “competitive” goals than any England player. But there are far more qualifying games than there used to be and more “minnow” opponents. But given his age (he is 29 later this month) it is likely that Rooney will not only break Charlton’s goal scoring record but surpass Peter Shilton’s 125 cap appearance record as well.
It has been something of a chequered England career, especially when it has come to tournament finals, consequently it will be hard for many to see Rooney as a true England legend.
That said, for some of his faults Rooney is the only current England player who would have got close to making England’s 1966 World Cup winning side or indeed the Italia 90 which reached the World Cup semi finals.
Given that Roy Hodsgon has made him England captain there seems little doubt Rooney will surpass Charlton’s record, perhaps by the end of this season.
No doubt Sir Bobby – especially considering the Manchester United connection – will salute Rooney graciously but anybody who thinks the record books and statistics tell the whole story are misguided.
Bobby Moore was the inspiration of the World Cup winning team while Geoff Hurst eventually took the goal scoring plaudits with his unique hat-trick in the 1966 final after he took the place of an injured Jimmy Greaves (the best ever instinctive English striker) but in many ways it was Charlton who was the talisman.
Charlton was the England player football fans around the world viewed with most awe.
He scored two “routine” but crucial goals when England overcame Portugal in the semi finals (Rooney has only managed one World Cup goal in three tournaments) but the strike that summed up Charlton best was his spectacular effort in the group stage win over Mexico.
Rooney has yet to and one suspects never will score goals for England quite as important. Certainly he will never be a true football legend, the kind that Sir Bobby Charlton has become.