I have been accused of being a lot of things in my life.
A pessimist is not one of them.
That being said, Wayne Rooney’s return to Goodison has even those with the rosiest outlooks squinting to see the immediate silver lining.
I’m not talking about the media exposure, kit sales etc.... that Rooney will most certainly be an asset in, I’m talking about on the field.
Sure, it was exciting to see Wazza score against some team in Tanzania.
But in reality, EVERYONE scores in preseason.
Kieran Dowell scored an equally (if not more) impressive goal AND hit the crossbar, but I’m not penciling him in to fill in the void left by the departure of Romelu Lukaku.
(Yes, I’m aware he’s not a forward.)
Rooney is expected (at least by Ronald Koeman) to chip in a fair share of goals in his first season back at Goodison in over a decade, which leave Toffees faithful holding their collective breath.
With everyone on the edge of their seats to see what a reinvigorated Rooney might do, I think it’s fair to look from both ends of the spectrum of possible outcomes that Everton fans have been envisioning for the return of Rooney.
So with that in mind, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and give the 5 Reasons Rooney Will Fail, and follow it up with the other side of the coin with 5 Reasons Rooney Will Be a Success tomorrow.
Let’s start with why Rooney is going to crash and burn.
1. HE’S 32 IN OCTOBER
This doesn’t come as news to anyone, but it’s possibly the biggest hurdle Rooney faces. Yes, he can work his rear end off and get into the ‘best shape of his career’ (a sentiment I have no doubt is coming) but as the say goes, father time goes undefeated.
Now, I’m not Wayne Rooney, but I’m also 32 years old and a former college wrestler who also played soccer, football and rugby extensively. I have had multiple back procedures with NUMEROUS other injuries still haunting me.
I can only IMAGINE what Rooney’s body must feel like after fifteen years of commitments to club and country, no matter how much time he spends in the gym. He only has one body and no amount of physical therapy and weight lifting can combat the effects of time and get his legs feeling ANYWHERE near where they used to be, no matter what he says.
No, he won’t be asked to operate as an outside midfielder in a 4-4-2 (at least he better not!!!) but whether as a #9 (center forward) #10 (attacking center mid) or #7 (winger, GULP) Rooney is going to be asked to cover ground and often times trigger the press, can he do it?
I’m not so sure.
Yes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic lit up the league last year at the ripe old age of 34, but while Rooney is stout, he doesn’t have a 6’5 frame with which to absorb the blows.
Maybe Wazza can pull the ultimate upset and turn the clock back.
I’m no so sure.
2. HE’S SLOW
Now, while we just discussed his ability to get his legs back (a reference to his ability to operate at his full speed for ninety minutes) his speed is a totally different animal.
Even if Rooney gets his endurance to the necessary levels, he will NEVER get the explosiveness back that hid his other EVER PRESENT physical limitations.
Wayne’s ability to explode and create his own space and get a shot off made him deadly in any situation, much like Sergio Aguero does now.
Now, however, Rooney just can’t keep up in an ever quickening league.
Without someone like Zlatan’s size, Rooney’s languid pace will be exposed, as it often was last year. Even IF he holds the ball up and finds an overlapping runner, he will struggle to get back into the play in time.
Play him as a #10 and he won’t offer the threat of getting past the center forward and Everton will find themselves playing in a compressed field and under immense pressure.
Put him out wide, and expect to see a lot of this.
3. HE WON’T PLAY VERY MUCH
If the incredibly sensible and rational fears stated above do come to fruition, Rooney isn’t going to see much of the field.
The depth is growing every day it seems at Finch Farm training, with both in form experience and positively unpredictable youth fighting for time, Rooney’s return tour will run into a wall if he can’t establish himself early in the season.
Koeman has plenty of options, and their are more signing up every day.
If the Toffees are ultimately successful in their pursuit of Gylfi Sigurdsson and another TRUE #9 like Olivier Giroud, Rooney’s uphill battle will only get steeper.
Considering the production of the those possible acquisitions, along with Davy Klaassen and Sandro, Rooney will become much like he was a Manchester United, a peripheral figure.
Sure, Rooney is a professional and will stick to the task, because he will have other motivations.
That is, until this...
4. ROONEY WILL REALIZE HIS ENGLAND DAYS ARE DONE
There is no doubt that Rooney’s desire to leave Manchester United had much to do with his desire to be part of England’s 2018 World Cup squad.
Rooney knew that he couldn’t stay at Man U and the limited (if any) minutes he would get as he needs to show his ability to score consistently is still there.
Rooney also knew that going to a club like say Watford, while garnering him assured minutes, would be an admission of regression beyond the point of consideration, so he was left to find a club more suited to his aspirations.
Lucky for Rooney, Ronald Koeman still has faith in his abilities, and a MASSIVE hole at the forward position. Additionally, Everton are ambitious enough that sustained success in a Blue jersey would earn a look from England manager Gareth Southgate.
Unfortunately, Rooney isn’t going to find the success he was looking for at Everton, so once the October qualifiers are done and qualification wrapped up, attention will turn to the ultimate roster.
Rooney will find his name so far down the list that it is going to take the wind right out of his sails.
Once that takes place, the Toffees will find their highest played player of all time positioned comfortably on the bench.
Not a recipe for success.
5. THE FANS WON’T WARM TO HIM
The final nail in the coffin for Rooney will be the fact that fans won’t warm to him. Unable to replace even a SMIDGEON of what Lukaku brought, the early euphoria of the fans will wane(!) and they will tire quickly of Rooney’s time on the field.
Sure, it seems the balance of fans have forgiven Wayne’s past indiscretions towards the club , but that does not mean they have forgetten.
When he starts to punt sitters into the Gwladys Street end or lose his man in transition, the murmurs about him being past it will get only get louder.
Also, I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, but he did do this... AT GOODISON!!
He can say all the right things, and talk up his Toffees pyjamas all he wants, but when push came to shove, Rooney had the opportunity to show respect and love for the club that made him, but instead he chose to take the low road.
It may be all grins and giggles now, but once the whistle blows and Rooney is exposed as an overpaid bench warmer, fans will quickly turn from sweet to sour.
For those who don't follow Brian's weekly column The Toffees Mailbag, you should know that his tongue-in-cheek humour carries a heavy dose of satire with it.