On 1st July 2006, England’s defeat to Portugal on penalties not only raised question marks over their ability to shine on the big stage but cast a dark cloud over the temperament of the man who is such an essential weapon in their World Cup armour this summer: Wayne Rooney.
His dismissal in extra-time after a stamp on Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho and some excessive protests from former United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo lead to people asking whether his undoubted talent would forever face a battle with his short fuse.
And this is the exact reason why Rooney’s recent antics during a match of little importance against local side Platinum Stars will be met with a steely glance and a stern word from the scrupulous Fabio Capello.
There is no doubt that Bob Bradley’s USA side will try to unsettle Rooney in the hope that doing so may nullify his threat and the latest example of Rooney’s temper will only entice them to do so in order to enhance their chances of causing an upset in their opening group game at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Rooney lit up a dull game against the Platinum Stars, scoring and setting up a goal after a neat exchange with Joe Cole and to his credit since that reckless day in 2006, England have seen major developments in the maturity of Rooney the man and not the naive youngster with world-class potential.
However, to become embroiled in a needless war of words with Platinum Stars’ Kagiso Senamela and his attitude towards the local referee then saw him waltz his way into his previously unblemished notebook.
The yellow card was justified by the referee’s explanation of Rooney’s behaviour to the media and lent itself to suggest that professional referees will not stand for it when the South African showpiece gets underway on Friday.
Hopefully, the unwelcoming glimpse of Rooney’s past will be just that and after a final reminder of England’s aims in the tournament from Fabio Capello, the USA will feel the wrath of Rooney on Saturday evening for the right reasons.
A calm Wayne Rooney is of course integral to England’s chances of lifting the World Cup for the first time since 1966 as without him England look a shadow of the side that includes him, perhaps exemplified by an uninspiring first-half performance against the Platinum Stars.