England's Wayne "Looney" Rooney Goes from National Hero to National Disgrace
LONDON (Associated Press) - Wayne Rooney has gone from national icon to national disgrace.
Seven weeks ago the teenage striker was the toast of English soccer after scoring a hat trick in his Manchester United debut and first Champions League game.
On Thursday Rooney was castigated in the national media for his petulant behavior in England's 1-0 loss to Spain in a friendly in Madrid. He stormed off the field muttered profanities and threw down a black arm band when he was substituted by coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Rooney had already been shown a yellow card for repeatedly barging into Spanish players and pushing goalkeeper Iker Casillas so hard that he nearly ended up in the stands.
The game hadn't even reached halftime when Eriksson decided to take Rooney off rather than risk him getting a red card.
As he left the pitch Rooney angrily tossed away the black armband that all England players were wearing as a mark of respect for former England and Liverpool star Emlyn Hughes whose funeral took place just a few hours earlier in Sheffield.
Instead of shaking hands with the player replacing him Manchester United teammate Alan Smith Rooney walked straight past him and the England bench and headed for the locker room.
"Looney Rooney lets the country down headlined the Daily Mail. "Rooney exits in disgrace as England put to shame said the Times.
Eriksson refused to condemn Rooney.
"At that time he was not thinking about disrespect it was frustration coming out the Swedish coach said about the armband incident. "It should not happen but I have seen it before and I will probably see it again from some players. It's football.
"I am not worried about Wayne Rooney. It is good that he came into the dressing room after the game and talked to myself and to Alan Smith."
Rooney's behavior particularly in the context of a game that was marred by racist chanting by Spanish fans marked another sour chapter in a career filled with spectacular play but also a number of troubling incidents on and off the field.
Although Rooney has been hailed as one of soccer's brightest young stars he has embarrassed his teams before.
Although he was scoring goals at age 16 and became England's youngest ever goalscorer at 17 he also was the youngest Premier League player to be sent off.
Eriksson and Man U manager Alex Ferguson live with the constant fear that the moody striker will lose his cool. That's just what happened Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
England captain David Beckham who spent some of the game trying to calm Rooney down said the striker will learn with age.
"He looks like a man and he carries himself like a man he said. "'But that will come with experience. If you take that (aggression) out of him then you take out the player that he actually is. It's just a case of calming it down and Wayne will that himself."
Former England captain Alan Shearer said Rooney must learn from his mistakes.
"You will not always get your own way on the pitch and when you don't you have to keep your cool your discipline the Newcastle striker said. "He is a great player with great ability. He does push people around bully them but he should do it in a good way. He was petty but the saving grace is that he is young."