Wayne Rooney Is England's Greatest Ever Goal Scorer, So Why Doesn’t England Care?
Get the best email in soccer.
A pair of penalties against San Marino and Switzerland probably wasn’t how Wayne Rooney dreamt of first equaling and then breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record for England, but the Manchester United captain is unlikely to care now it’s done. In the 40 or so years that Charlton’s record has stood, some truly prolific English strikers have tried, and ultimately failed, to breach his tally of 49 international goals: Gary Linekar, Geoff Hurst, Alan Shearer (still the EPL’s alltime leading goal scorer), Jimmy Greaves and Michael Owen to name but five. Rooney is truly in, nay, atop exalted company. And he’s yet to turn 30.
So why, then, does Rooney’s achievement slightly underwhelm? What is it about Wazza reaching the golden mark of 50 strikes - two more than Lionel Messi has managed for Argentina, by-the-by - that seems to have left everyone in England a tad deflated?
Is it that Charlton scored more goals in World Cups and European Championships? No, since they’ve each scored five in tournament play.
Is it that Rooney has scored more goals against mediocre opposition, like the five he bagged against San Marino? It can’t be, since Sir Bobby filled his boots against the likes of Luxembourg (five goals), Mexico (three in a game England won 8-1) and the USA (England won 18-1 on aggregate over two ties).
Is it that Charlton required fewer games to reach his total of 49? Unlikely: Bobby racked up 106 caps for his goal haul, while Wazza has eclipsed him in 107 appearances. Throw in the fact that Charlton played in an era where substitutes weren’t allowed, and Rooney will have a better goals per minutes played than his illustrious predecessor.
Is it because Bobby Charlton lifted the World Cup? Quite possibly, but then he had a team of talent all around him, which hasn’t been the case for Rooney.
Is it because he plays for Manchester United, that lightning conductor of vitriol and loathing from all those who don't support Manchester United? No: Bobby Charlton captained the Red Devils for over a decade.
Is it that Bobby Charlton has better hair? Hmm…
We can only conclude, therefore, that the reason Rooney’s achievement isn’t held in quite the same esteem as Sir Bobby’s mark is because, to put it bluntly, he’s a bit of a tool. He’s just too shouty-sweary, granny sh*gging and nouveau riche to be awarded the credit he deserves. If his wife wasn’t out trying to make a career out of being Wayne Rooney’s wife, or if Wazza himself wasn’t the perennial subject of tabloid headlines declaring his greed / excess / peccadillos while shoehorning ROO into the title, we’d probably feel more of an affinity with England’s leading goal-getter.
But we don’t.
Which is a very sad reflection indeed on the modern English footballer, because with another five-or-so years left in his career, Wayne Rooney could set a goal scoring mark for both England and Manchester United that will stand for a very, very long time indeed.