ONLY one thing shocks me after the marriage-wrecking Wayne Rooney revelations over the weekend. It’s this: How come everyone's acting so surprised?
Before England’s squad departed for the World Cup in South Africa in June, the news was out and about. Three rumours were doing the rounds. One of them (and not the biggest one): Wayne Rooney had been seeing a prostitute while his wife Colleen was pregnant. The Mirror finally overcame the lawyers and published the details on Sunday, leaving Rooney’s place in tomorrow night’s Euro 2012 clash with Switzerland in Basel in jeopardy.
Truth is, Rooney wasn’t the only one who spent the World Cup sweating, awaiting the call from home. You an imagine them sitting in the middle of nowhere, waiting to hear the news that their nefarious activities had been exposed at last. England’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg was awash with nervous footballers.
John Terry, of course, had already been stripped of the captaincy by then after the News of the World revelaed he had been having an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the mother of former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge’s son.
Three weeks ago, England striker Peter Crouch was exposed by the same Sunday tabloid over his relationship with a prostitute despite being engaged to Abbey Clancy.
Ashley Cole’s “quickie” divorce from celebrity wife Cheryl Cole went through last week after months of revelations from various women who knew he wears y-fronts (and had pictures to prove it).
Two further “super-injunctions” remain in place, preventing the voracious British tabloids from exposing the full, sad story surrounding the current England squad.
As I said before and during the World Cup, having seven or eight players hovering over their mobile phones fearing devastation in their private lives is no way to win the greatest footballing event on earth. Taken away from their comfortable, cosseted lives at home, they were isolated from their minders and advisors in Africa, and it got to them.
That’s what Fabio Capello had to deal with in South Africa. A nightmare epitomised by Rooney’s behaviour after the appalling 0-0 draw with Algeria in Cape Town, when he played like a has-been and mouthed off at the booing fans.
Yet the English press have turned on Capello since an appalling World Cup which culminated in a 4-1 defeat against Germany in the first knock-out round. They were lucky to get that far.
As Capello moaned last week: “You have turned me from a god into a monster.”
What I can’t understand is this: the entire press corps in South Africa knew all about the sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of several England stars. They must have realised Rooney’s moodiness, Terry’s rebellious Sunday press conference, Cole’s lack of spark, not to mention that infamous training ground scrap between captain Gerrard and former captain Terry was sparked by events Capello couldn’t hope to control.
The poor bloke has just landed in Switzerland where he is trying to cope with the Rooney revelations. No football manager should have to deal with this kind of thing.
But Capello, after the glorious World Cup qualifying campaign, found himself at the long-awaited finals in South Africa surrounded by players living on the edge.
He has returned determined to do his job once more. To get England to the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine in two years’ time. He started the campaign in style with a 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday night, with Rooney playing a starring role as the architect of Jermain Defoe’s hat-trick.
Now Capello must decide if Rooney is psychologically fit to play Switzerland tomorrow night. And hope neither of the other two super-injunctions fails before then. No names, but blimey, if the other stuff comes out, Capello will be struggling to name a team.
And here’s the point. Knowing now what Capello was trying to cope with in South Africa, will the media apologise to the proud Italian? Will they accept it wasn’t Capello’s fault half his side played like dunderheads at the World Cup?
And if he inspires a second successive qualifying win in Basel, will they agree (as they did before the World Cup) the Italian is the best man for the job despite his lack of fluency at press conferences?
I hope so. Fabio, forget the broken English, you’re fab. Not your fault you are in charge of a bunch of over-paid philanderers.
There is another view. If the press weren’t allowed to publish these stories, England could be world-beaters. Luckily, we live in a nation where the press is relatively free.
To see exclusive revelations about England’s off-field problems before and during the World Cup, simply scroll through early entries at www.neal-collins.blogspot.com.