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All Things Footie | Friday, June 18 | Jordan

The fountain of Wayne

It’s official. In two consecutive games, Michael Owen has been withdrawn before Wayne Rooney; the first name on most supporters’ teamsheets is the 18 year old Evertonian; Owen is no longer the golden boy of English football. Rooney won’t look upon yesterday afternoon’s game as one of the best performances of his career, nor will he look back on his brace of goals as his best, but in years to come he will look back and know that 17th June 2004 was the day the World (or Europe at least) sat up and took notice.

Before the tournament began, French defender Lilian Thuram demonstrated that he’s not watched England much over the last eighteen months—and not listened to his teammates William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre much either. According to Thuram, Rooney is ‘too young for such a hard competition like this’, and as if to ice the cake, followed it up with ‘Rooney is not Michael Owen - he was a far better player on his debut’. OK son, whatever you say. He’s right on one thing though, Rooney isn’t Owen; thank God. Owen has always depended on being fed balls to chase, on being in that quarter of the eighteen-yard-box that allows him to get a shot away—link up play and holding the ball up have no place in the game of Mr Umbro. He’s a good player, and a goalscorer, but he lacks the touch and refined edge that modern forwards need to get around even the most naïve and inexperienced of defences.

Rooney—even at age 16 on his Everton debut against Tottenham—had more maturity and sophistication to his game than Owen will ever have. His first (Premiership) goal for the club summed up Rooney’s ability, enthusiasm and audacity perfectly. Not many sixteen year olds would dare try a 25-yard screamer against the Champions, Rooney didn’t just dare, he buried it. I doubt he could spell intimidated, let alone feel it. Sure, he has a firey temper, and a side to his game that should be quelled (a side that despite Peter Drury’s comments last night did not ‘raise it’s ugly head’ when Rooney was unfairly booked); that said, the exuberance of youth is not a problem for Rooney, it’s just another asset that will tide him over until he can replace it with experience.

Experience that I’m sorry (for Everton fans) to say that Wayne will only get outside of Goodison park. His performances last season for Everton were—though at times brilliant—on the whole unimpressive. He’s playing in a poor team, and consequently being dragged down to a poor level. By holding on to Rooney, Everton are doing the youngster a real disservice, if he remains at his boyhood club he’ll never progress much further; and he has so much more to give. He needs to be around World Class coaches and World Class players to learn, and develop his game. He needs to be playing in a top side, where his layoffs, dummys and cute touches have great players to link up with. His runs and desire for the ball must be nurtured and rewarded by players and a team that can do him justice.

I know he loves Everton and doesn’t want to leave, but he should be persuaded. He should be persuaded by David Moyes, Bill Kenwright, and anyone else who wants to see this prodigious talent realise his potential. If you love him, let him go. Wherever he goes and whatever he achieves, he’ll always be a blue, just wearing someone else’s shirt.

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