How does record breaker Rooney stack up against England greats?
Converted penalties against San Marino and Switzerland in Euro 2016 qualifying have taken Wayne Rooney ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton as England’s all-time top scorer. Where does this put the Merseyside native who, like his predecessor, is synonymous with Manchester United among the greats of our game?
Charlton and Rooney occupy different eras, but had the weight of expectation placed upon them for club and country. The latter will lead the Three Lions at Euro 2016, and Coral make them 11/1 fifth-favourites for the tournament.
Just one game more played than Charlton and a solitary strike better off than the World Cup winner, current England captain Rooney essentially boasts the same goals to games ratio as the man he has surpassed.
While naysayers may have plenty to say, the records will not remember whether Rooney racked-up the most goals for England in a potential thrashing of minnows, rather than at Wembley against a great rival.
However, as Rooney reaches this milestone, simultaneously setting another for subsequent generations, it seems apt to question how the hitman, rightly or wrongly, stacks up against the Three Lions’ most favoured sons, and the prolific peers that surround him in the scoring charts.
It could be a case of looking back at the past through rose-tinted glasses, which Rooney may one day benefit from himself, but there is the sense that the 29-year-old is not held in similar high regard as England’s attacking pantheon of Charlton, Jimmy Greaves and Gary Lineker.
The famous three, of course, star in some of the fondest Three Lions memories, including that sole World Cup win in 1966 for Charlton and Greaves, who missed the final, with popular TV personality Lineker featuring in his own Italia ’90 semi-final run.
Rooney, though, is far more synonymous with the so-called Golden Generation, who failed to win anything of note, disappointing in several successive international tournaments.
Despite the common perception that the current England captain has clocked-up so many goals due to favourable friendlies and international competition qualifying cannon-fodder, though, it is Charlton that has played fewer competitive clashes and more dead-rubbers, with 49 friendlies to Rooney’s 39.
Oft-maligned Rooney has also bagged two more winning goals than his counterpart, with six game-changers. However, Charlton’s list of scalps and teams he has scored against reads as the more impressive. World Cup goals against Portugal and Mexico are counted, plus strikes past former giants of the game Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
Former Chelsea goal machine Greaves, meanwhile, retains the record for most England hat-tricks with six, while Lineker proved lethal on the biggest stage, with 10 World Cup goals, and boasts two less than Rooney’s half century in just 80 caps; more than 25 fewer outings.
Rooney’s list does not read quite so well, with bags against the biggest names such as Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands all having arrived in friendlies. The Man Utd man also has just one strike in 11 World Cup finals matches, which is perhaps the most damming stat when considering him among English greats.
There is, of course, an argument to be made about the quality of the Three Lions sides Rooney has toiled for, and the supporting cast, as opposed to his predecessors, but the striker has not yet truly stood up to be counted for his country.
Expectations, as well as the intrusive press coverage and celebrity that goes hand in hand with the modern day game, surely play a part in Rooney’s rating as a tier below the men he has out-scored.
After bounding onto the England stage as an exuberant and exciting Everton academy product in 2003, it is fair to say Rooney, despite being heavily decorated at club level with the Red Devils, has not become the Three Lions’ saviour.
Yet, the 29-year-old has unquestionably been a potent and effective player, and one England fans and pundit may rue taking for granted, once he also becomes a past comparison to rate the next generation against.