August 23 2017 – a watershed day in a football fan’s understanding of the beautiful game.
Wayne Rooney officially announced his retirement from international football on Wednesday after reportedly snubbing a call from Gareth Southgate to join the England setup again.
Rooney’s fall from grace in the last 18 months of his Manchester United career was difficult to watch, making his instant return to form at Everton so far this season all the more romantic.
But this isn’t like any old retirement announcement – it symbolises far more than that.
The end of the line for the former Manchester United captain officially marks the end of that famed but ultimately flawed ‘Golden Generation’ and, to some extent, my childhood.
I’m 24, so I grew up idolising the likes of Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
The reason I’m a Liverpool fan is because Michael Owen was running rings around defences as a teenager when I was first showing an interest in the game.
David Beckham, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole have all fallen by the way side in recent years as their years and heavier legs caught up with them.
Rooney therefore is the bookend to that marvellous generation of players England fans are equally so fond and frustrated to have called their own.
His retirement perhaps resonates so much with England fans my age because of the sense of then and now it creates.
Yes that side never fulfilled their potential – Euro 2004 was ours to lose – but they got a whole lot closer than their predecessors have threatened.
Since Rooney tore defences to shreds as an 18-year-old in Portugal that summer England have either scraped their way to the quarter-finals, crashed out in the last 16 or group stages or not even qualified at all to major tournaments.
Instead of celebrating genuine world class talent in every position on the field, England fans are now left clinging to the belief that promising talents can withstand the ridiculous pressure on their shoulders.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli are brilliant players but would either get in that 2004 side? Of course not – we had to push the greatest midfielder of his generation to the left hand side for f*** sake.
There’s no denying Rooney’s decision is probably the right one.
He can now use the pesky international breaks to take a break, work on his fitness and prolong his career at Everton – which has started with a bang so far.
But I can officially start using the phrase ‘back in my day now’, yearning for a time machine and better days as an England supporter.
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