Tag Archives: Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes Spot On About “Past It” Rooney – by Rob Atkinson

Rooney - ordinary

Rooney – ordinary

I never liked Paul Scholes. As I’m a Leeds United fan, that’s hardly surprising – he was virtually ever-present in the Man U sides that took full advantage of favourable economic, administrative and refereeing conditions to dominate for the worst part of two decades. For a devotee of the real United – the Damned United and Last Champions of popular infamy, hated by prats everywhere, my dislike of Scholes was part of my DNA. Fine player though he was, I always felt some hyperbole was at play. Best midfielder of his generation? I think not. The indulgently fond media attitude to his “inability to tackle” made me want to hurl, too. Let’s face it, he was filthy, a thug. In any other team, he’d have been condemned as a Joey Barton with added skill.

However, all that said, Scholes has partially redeemed himself in this Leeds fan’s eyes by daring to think the unthinkable about “National Icon” Wayne Rooney. The Ginger Minger has come right out and, belying his normal quiet man image, he’s done a proper hatchet job on his former team mate. Past his best, Scholes stated. Three words which neatly sum up today’s Rooney who – let’s be brutally honest here – has not done it for England for a long, long time now. What Scholes said was viewed as heresy in many quarters, the sycophantic chattering classes who still ridiculously claim that the former lifelong Evertonian is England’s best player.

Last night, in defeat against Italy, that accolade belonged unquestionably to young Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, chosen from the start ahead of the unlucky Adam Lallana. Sterling looked like trouble for Italy every time he got the ball, quicksilver fast off either foot, jinking, twisting, tormenting opposition defenders. Meanwhile, the one-paced Rooney chugged his weary way through the first half, sulkily neglecting his left-sided defensive duties, leaving Leighton Baines exposed and unhappy.

Lallana really was unlucky to be left out of the side – until late on, when England were chasing the game and Sterling was tying up with cramp. The Southampton star is just what we need on this stage, someone who can receive the ball with his back to goal and go either way, baffling defenders, bringing others into play. There’s a touch of Dalglish there.

Ross Barkley, too, is acquitting himself well for a Leeds Warnock-era reject. The man who was only good enough for our reserves at Elland Road looks at home in an international shirt, powerful, incisive and deadly creative. Again, he was unused until it was just about too late, with Italy set on keeping what they’d got, retaining the ball, striking on the break. Both Barkley and Lallana would have been far better options than Rooney, who – one deadly left-wing cross apart – failed to influence the game. In the second half he screwed one shot horribly wide after a rare, powerful run; he missed an extremely presentable chance to equalise from Baines’ astute through ball – and he took a corner that would have had them laughing on Hackney Marshes.

Now England just have to beat Uruguay on Thursday, in a game the South Americans also need to win after their unexpected beating by Costa Rica. Suarez will be looking to bite the hand that feeds him and – whatever he and his compatriots might say publicly – they will be hoping that this over-the-hill and ineffective Rooney keeps his starting place.

England manager Roy Hodgson is truly on the horns of a dilemma. Scholes has put the alternative pro’s view of Rooney’s waning powers, something that many fans out here can see all too clearly. But while the establishment view remains that Wazza is our present-day Gazza, then little will change – unless the Boss has an unlikely attack of courage and faith in his own judgement. It seems unlikely. Immediately post-match, Hodgson stood there and chanted the mantra; Wayne had a good game. Well, Roy, we could all see how ordinary he was – but it looks as though he’s not run out of last chances yet.

It’s enough to give a Leeds fan a nosebleed to say this but – in the name of God, listen to Scholesy. At the very least, bench Rooney so that you might have the option of introducing him, angry, resentful and looking to wreak havoc, as an impact sub. That, surely, is his best deployment these days. But the complacent, untouchable, sure-fire starter Rooney, the ineffective fixture in the line-up that we saw so anonymous against Italy, is no good to this England team. The trouble is, you won’t get any of the inner circle, or the lapdog media, saying so.

Regrettably – amazingly – there’s only Scholesy out there talking sense. And as a long-time team mate of Wazza, he should know. Somebody high up needs to start listening – it’ll soon be too late.

Cristiano Ronaldo to Sweep Board in Fifa’s ‘Narcissist of the Year’ Awards – by Rob Atkinson

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A tender moment between CR7 and his biggest hero

Sometimes, you catch sight of a headline and, as you feel your eyebrows heading for your hairline, you wonder to yourself: “Did I really read that right?” Such a headline caught my notice the other day. “Cristiano Ronaldo opens a museum in his own honour in Madeira, Portugal“, it read. My eyebrows still haven’t returned to their default position – if fact I may well have pulled a couple of muscles there.

The thing is, the story in itself is not that surprising or earth-shattering. The impact is more of a jolt of self-affirmation – having a deep-rooted prejudice confirmed, right out of the blue like that.  You just think – well, I was right about that lad.  You see, I’ve long felt that Senhor Ronaldo has a touch of the Narcissus Complex about him. Many was the time when some noted Man U mouthpiece such as S’ralex Ferguson would say, with no evident sense of irony “Cristiano is the archetypal Man U player” or some such platitude. And I’d just nod, thinking to myself: isn’t he just. As was Royston Keane, pretend tough guy, for his blithe belief that the rules of the game were for lesser mortals. Cantona too, for his strutting, turned-up-collar arrogance – noticeably absent in his time at Leeds United where the likes of Strachan and Batty would have beaten it out of him.

So, despite Ronaldo’s much-publicised yearning to head off for pastures Iberian, I was actually quite surprised when he left the Theatre of Hollow Myths a couple of years back. He just seemed like a perfect fit for that particular club, an apt representative of the puffed-up, self-regarding Pride of Devon. Since arriving in Madrid, a constant theme has been his desire to be regarded in the same light he regards himself – if such a thing were only possible. Because, alongside his undoubted brilliance as a player and his lavish habit of scoring goals at an unprecedented rate for a winger, there has always been this “look at me” air about him.

This particular manifestation of narcissism is at its most apparent when he’s playing in a high-profile match, at the World Cup finals, for instance. There, the games are played in stadia equipped with those flying cams which zip about aerially, capturing close-ups of players from a position, seemingly, just above their heads. So whenever Ronaldo misses a goal or protests to the referee (he does this a lot), you’ll see him in a match like this, glancing at the nearest robot camera, then maybe checking out his magnified image on the inevitable big screen, admiring the pose even as he’s striking it.  He has a special “poised to take a free kick” pose as well – you’ve probably noticed.  He loves this one – legs akimbo, stock still, seemingly waiting for the crowd to subside to an awed hush. He sneaks little sidelong glances at the big screen then too, checking himself out.  It’s really quite funny and a little bit pitiful. There’s no denying that he’s a very good-looking lad, and yet this too-evident, overpowering self-adoration is curiously unattractive, casting a patina of ugliness onto features usually apt to set hearts, not all of them female, a-flutter.

It’s a character trait that makes it impossible to define Ronaldo simply in terms of his technical ability, his genius with a football at his feet, or even his extravagant goalscoring record. In this way, the narcissistic flaw in his make-up serves to keep him out of the Pantheon of True Greats, players – many of lesser ability – who combined admirable qualities such as humility, modesty, self-restraint on and off the field – things like that – with their obvious talent. Marks of maturity and character all, and reminders that talent alone, even genius, is not enough. Ronaldo’s flaws are less extreme than, say, Georgie Best‘s – and he’s certainly a much better pro – but just as was the case with Best, those flaws threaten to have him remembered at least as much for the negative parts of his persona as the positive aspects of his game.

Ronaldo is simply unable to restrain this tendency to sound overtly, overweeningly in love with himself. As many know, when somebody is in love, they’re totally unable to comprehend how anyone would be able to resist loving the object of their adoration. It’s a type of tunnel vision – the lover cannot see anything but good about the loved. This would appear to be precisely the nature of Cristiano Ronaldo’s intensely passionate relationship with himself. If he ever needed a motto, he could do a lot worse than to open his Bible and paraphrase John 15:13, summing himself up with “Greater love hath no man than I for me”. By comparison, Narcissus himself comes over as having slight self-esteem issues. Ronaldo loves Ronaldo, and you get the feeling that he honestly can’t understand why the world at large can’t share in his joy.

The opening of the CR7 Museum, by the adored CR7 himself, in honour of the said adored CR7, sums all of this up quite neatly. It provides independent verification of mine and others’ long-standing summing-up of Cristiano Ronaldo, and as such it’s really more to be wryly laughed at than fumed over. But it is a pity, in its way: a footballer’s life as an active player is, after all, relatively brief. After retirement, and as the glittering career fades ever further into the past, history can take a more jaundiced view of the former star than those who were there in the instant, cheering and applauding as a virtuoso performer plied his genius trade. The later view of the legend, the “warts and all” version, can even come to focus more on the warts than on much else worthy of admiration.

If Ronaldo wants the eye of history to gaze benignly upon him (and you can bet your last penny he does), then a little humility, a little less obvious awareness of his own talent and gorgeousness would have been a big help. But it’s late in the day for that; even now he’s seen as someone in whom human virtues epitomised by the likes of John Charles or Bobby Moore are sadly absent. In the meantime though, why would Cristiano care? He is playing for one of the biggest clubs on the planet, he has won and will win many medals and trophies – his life is one grand, sweet song.

It’s just that he appears to have been blighted by a crucial part of his development; that few years spent at Man U which can have an unfortunate effect upon an impressionable young man, especially one with a certain arrogance about him, the air of a braggart. It can have him believing in his own publicity and the rightness of everything he does or thinks, an impression reinforced by a complaisant media. Other, similar examples of this type have emerged from the club, other flawed characters who would have benefited from formative years spent in a less privileged and less insular environment. It manifests itself differently in Beckham, Keane, Cantona and a few more who spring to mind – but all of these players have emerged from Man U with character issues to confront, something they’re doing with varying degrees of determination and success. It does have to be said that not everyone is carried away on such a perilous tide; Paul Scholes for instance remained firmly detached from all the hype, to his eternal credit – and simply got on with his job. Andrei Kanchelskis was another such.

Cristiano Ronaldo is simply the most obvious example of the kind of young man who in many ways summed up the character of a club like Man U, but in many more ways was in sore need of being taken down a peg or two when the time was still ripe for his character to develop along more attractive lines. The moral is, I suppose: If you have a talented youth who thinks he’s the bees’ knees – send him to Barnsley where he’ll learn the rudiments and have the more offensive edges knocked off him. You won’t produce quite such a polished player that way, it must be admitted. But you would end up with a much better all-round bloke; one who would perhaps guffaw derisively at the thought of opening a museum in his own honour.