Monday, 9 January 2017

Thank you Rooney – but this must be goodbye

Wayne Rooney: The day he scored that goal against Arsenal
Why Wayne Rooney’s record-equalling heroics could now mean goodbye at Man Utd, while Mark Hughes, Leeds on TV and Jurgen Klopp’s selections are also discussed.

Rooney’s achievements special – yet why is he subject to disdain?

Love him, loathe him or simply think his better days are long behind him, football supporters around the world should stop to applaud the achievements of Wayne Rooney for equaling Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for Manchester United.
Why? Well aside from the obvious, there’s plenty of contributing factors that make Rooney’s record extra special.
But before you simply discard the player as ‘way past his best‘ just stop and think about what the player has achieved in his career….
The break down of how Rooney’s goals were scored, and who they came against can be seen herebut in the meantime, ponder these facts.
  • In the last 12 seasons, Rooney has scored more than double figures in each and ever season
  • His lowest tally in that time was the 14 he scored in 2014/15; the highest was the 34 in 2009/10 and 2011/12
  • Rooney is Manchester United’s top goalscorer in European competitions with 39
  • Rooney’s 249 goals came in 543 games – a strike rate of a goal every 2.18 games
  • (Sir Bobby’s 249 goals came in 758 games – a strike rate of a goal every 3.04 games)
  • Of Rooney’s 249 goals, only 26 have come from the penalty spot

In addition, witnessing a player breaking or equaling his club’s record goals tally is not something that comes around every day. Charlton’s record stood for 44 years, before Rooney matched it on Saturday.
Looking at the record goalscorers of some of the UK’s other biggest clubs, tells you all you need to know about these records and how rarely these feats are broken.
  • Arsenal’s top scorer: Thierry Henry, 228 goals
  • Aston Villa’s top scorer: Billy Walker, 244 goals
  • Celtic’s top scorer: Jimmy McGrory, 522 goals
  • Chelsea’s top scorer: Frank Lampard,211 goals
  • Everton’s top scorer: Dixie Dean, 383 goals
  • Leeds’ top scorer: Peter Lorimer, 238 goals
  • Liverpool’s top scorer: Ian Rush, 346 goals
  • Man City’s top scorer: Eric Brook, 177 goals
  • Newcastle’s top scorer: Alan Shearer, 206 goals
  • Nottingham Forest’s top scorer: Grenville Morris, 217 goals
  • Rangers’ top scorer: Ally McCoist, 355 goals
  • Tottenham’s top scorer: Jimmy Greaves, 266 goals
  • West Ham’s top scorer: Vic Watson, 326 goals

Be honest: would you have known all these? Had you even heard of all these?
So no matter what your thoughts are about Rooney, his efforts stand the test of time. Depressing as it sounds, it’s also quite possible you may never see a goalscorer of his ilk at Manchester United again in your lifetime.
And yet, remarkably, there are plenty in the game – Manchester United supporters aside – who see fit to criticise the player or even make light of his achievements. The tabloid press don’t help his cause – you only have to remember the recent England drinking scandal – to see why the player has, more than most, had to win over the doubters.
And yes, while his better days are behind him – the very notion he’s no longer considered first choice these days proves that – you cannot take away what is a remarkable achievement. You can see Martin Samuel and the other Sunday Supplement panelists praise the player here.
Yes, he might have attracted negative publicity over the years, and yes, some of his lifestyle choices have been questioned. However, Rooney’s record stands the test of time and for that he deserves applauding. If nothing else, the longevity of the man – to play for so long at a club of Manchester United’s standing – deserves a tip of the cap.
As a final thought, I’d suggested before that Rooney might seek one last challenge in his career once he broke Manchester United’s all-time top scoring record. He’s been a brilliant player for Manchester United for so long now – but the time is now coming to say his farewells – and he can do so with his head held high. It’d be best not to risk that by dwindling even further past his best….
While I can’t see him leaving the club this window, a move this summer surely now cannot be ruled out. The Chinese Super League obviously cannot be ruled such are the vast sums he could earn. But family man Rooney seems unlikely to move his family across the other side of the world just for the sake of a little extra coin….
Wayne Rooney: The day he scored that goal against Arsenal
To me, there’s only one place the player can finish his career – and that’s right back where it all started, as that fresh-faced, freckled and slightly chubby kid we once saw at boyhood club Everton back in 2002. Having been lured to Manchester United after just 77 appearances for the club, there’s a sense of feeling that Rooney has an unwritten chapter left in him and Goodison – and that’s the only place I can see him winding down the final stages of a tremendous career.

Klopp selection should be applauded, not criticised

Liverpool: Frustrated at Anfield
Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with League Two Plymouth on Sunday was certainly one of the shocks of FA Cup third-round weekend and the plucky Pilgrims can take fantastic memories away from their trip to Anfield, regardless of how the replay at Home Park turns out next week.
Some Reds supporters have been quick to criticise Jurgen Klopp for not picking a side strong enough to get the job done at Anfield and ultimately leaving the club with an extra match they could a) do without and b) one where the travel alone will take plenty out of them.
But rather than chastise Klopp for selecting Liverpool’s youngest side in their history, fans should applaud the German for being bold enough to select a team containing five academy products and with an average age of 21 years, 296 days (who works these out by the way!?..)
And a similar selection had done the business against Leeds in the EFL Cup quarter-finals recently, so Klopp had every reason to expect the side he choose could have made progress.
That certainly bodes well for Liverpool’s future, not just with the kids being deemed good enough to break through, but also in that they’ve got a manager in charge prepared to give them that chance. It’s a tale all too unfamiliar at other clubs, who seem quite happy to stockpile up these youngsters before sending them out on numerous loans, with little, or no intention to ever blood them. And for that, Liverpool should be applauded.
One word of caution for Liverpool and Klopp, however, to contend with. This is the third time this season where the club have completely dominated possession and failed to win the match (the others being at Burnley and the recent 2-2 draw at Sunderland).

Something for the boss to be concerned with? You’d have to say probably not, and it’s unlikely the German will abandon his philosophies for a more direct approach any time soon.
Klopp is likely to pick a similar side for the replay – and while there are those who fear they could come croppers at a tricky away venue against a fired-up opponent, I’d back Liverpool and their kids all the way to progress.

Has Hughes taken Stoke as far as he can?

Mark Hughes: Fuming at Stoke's recent defending
Stoke are never going to win the league, they’re also unlikely to get relegated any time soon, which means runs in the domestic cup competitions are probably about as much excitement as the club can probably expect. This is by no means a dig; Stoke should be applauded for the way the club is run and for the way in which they’ve solidified their place in the Premier League. There’s a number of clubs who’d give their right arm to swap places with the Potters, that’s for sure.
However, Saturday’s third-round exit at home to Championship Wolves just simply wasn’t acceptable. It was their second third-round cup exit this season, with the defeat to Paul Lambert’s side effectively ending their season before mid-January.
So what is there to break the monotony now of another mid-table finish? OK, so the challenge is there to try and better their three successive ninth-placed finishes, but does that really whet the appetite for their fans?
Several of them questioned Mark Hughes’ selection after Saturday’s defeat and while the Welshman is unlikely to lose his job any time soon, might a change be needed in the summer to give their fans a little excitement and the club, a change of direction?
Stoke sit 11th in the Premier League table, but they have beaten just six teams this season. The league positions of that sextet are: 12th, 14th, 18th, 19th and 20th. Oh, and 15th. In League Two. Hughes might well have taken the club as far as he can.

TV companies the biggest winner of possible Leeds promotion

Be totally honest with yourself: how many of you would want to see Leeds United back in the Premier League? True, the Yorkshiremen are among the most hated of clubs among rival fans – but having the Whites back among the elite would be great for the Premier League. The feistiness of some of the games just by having the presence back among the elite would be tremendously refreshing alone.
It’d also give the TV companies lots of scope too. Leeds are right up there when it comes to their matches being screened live too.
They kick-off the week live on TV with their FA Cup clash at Cambridge live on BT Sports; they end the working week with their Championship clash with Derby live on Sky Sports.
In fact, the Whites have been on TV nine times already this season; that total being 11 by the end of the week. That’s almost a third of all their matches being broadcast live. Only Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Tottenham have been shown more often.
In addition, by the time Friday rolls around, 8 of their last 12 games will have been selected for live TV broadcast.
So as Garry Monk’s side make their best fist at returning to the top flight in 11 years, it isn’t just their fans, or even rival fans (secretly) hoping they can return, it’s the TV companies who stand to benefit the most.

Young Fulham talent worthy of all the praise

Fulham came from behind to beat Cardiff early on Sunday and it was Ryan Sessegnon who struck the winner, becoming one of the tournament’s youngest-ever goalscorers at 16 years and 235 days old.
Sessegnon has impressed for the Cottagers and manager Slavisa Jokanovic has urged the club to tie the defender down on a long-term deal.
The England Under-17 international will only gain more interest after starring once more, having also struck against the Bluebirds in the league meeting between the pair earlier in the season.
Sessegnon was just two days old when Chelsea lifted the FA Cup by beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Wembley in the 2000 final but has already achieved his own moment of history in the competition.
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