There has always been a yardstick by which to measure someone’s personality and conveniently it’s neatly packaged into one simple question:
Would you go for a pint with them?
“Yeah, he’s all right, him. I’d happily go for a pint with him.”
It has little to do with the alcohol consumed. It’s a reference that you’d happily spend half an hour of your time in their company.
Or 15 minutes, depending on their familiarity with said drink.
Either way, it’s about the person, not the alcohol.
It’s quite apt to use it when talking about footballers though, because historically, the two are inextricably linked.
Attend any function where the after dinner speaker is an ex-footballer and I’ll bet a pound to a penny that the funniest anecdote involves a night out sampling a few beverages or the aftermath of the morning after.
Most top footballers are now managed not only by agents but PR companies who control their image and commercial interests.
Back in 1992 when I first started my career, you didn’t need PR to make sure you put over the right persona to prove popular with the fans. All you had to do was stand and have a pint with a couple of fans and chat with them, and once word had spread, it was popular opinion that you were “all right”, as in “Aye, apparently he had a pint with so-and-so last week. He’s all right him.”
Not that it was a conscious decision to bump up your popularity amongst the fans by taking the time out to give the fans five minutes of your time, it was just the way it was.
Conversely, if a fan offered you a drink and you didn’t take him up on the offer, you were deemed “up your own backside” and arrogant.
As the years passed, attitudes towards footballers changed, and there was a period of time when you just couldn’t win, whatever you did.
The old attitudes of “they’re just doing what normal lads their age do” began to shift, regularly depending on your latest result.
Now, if you accepted a drink, you were either a “great lad” or a disgrace for being out in a bar.
If you refused the drink, even if you didn’t drink alcohol or you were simply being professional, you were still labelled arrogant or aloof.
Then we come to today. Or yesterday, to be more precise.
It’s now 2016 and the picture you see staring back at you from the front page of one of the newspapers is that of the England captain, finding it extremely difficult to keep both of his eyes from straying in different directions.
Upon seeing the pictures, there is immediately two camps created; the “What’s wrong with a grown man having a few drinks when his next game is seven days away?” camp, and the “He’s a national disgrace! Look at the state of him!” camp.
And therein still lies the problem.
Of course there isn’t really anything wrong with Wayne Rooney having a couple a couple of drinks with a few fans.
We’re always complaining about the chasm between players and fans and what he was doing was some good old fashioned PR.
Contractually he isn’t bound to abstain (most clubs stipulate in a fine system no alcohol 48 hours before a game), and he’s injured anyway so what difference would it make? He’s not harming anyone one, right? Well, that’s not strictly true.
Numerous studies and research has shown that even moderate consumption of alcohol impairs recovery from injury and can impact on the player’s performance over the next few days so if you’ve just had to pull out of a game because you aren’t fit enough, it’s probably the last thing you should be doing.
On top of the that, what it also does is mask pain so you could be doing more damage to yourself without realising it.
After all, alcohol is usually the stem cause of dancing.
Even if you aren’t injured, per se, and just recovering from the rigours of 90 minutes of football, alcohol slows down the recovery process.
Simply put, as an injured footballer, alcohol slows down the healing process and prolongs the length of time you’re out injured.
It negates the good work done by all of the medical and sports science staff employed to get you in optimum shape.
Rooney might be fit enough to face Arsenal this weekend, but could he be fitter?
The most crucial time for most injuries, serious or superficial, is the first 48 hours and drowning your sorrows when the immediate diagnosis isn’t good was commonly done in the past.
Mentally, you convince yourself that hiding behind a pint glass is what gets you through that initial period of pain.
But it’s far from the right thing to do. Especially if you’re struggling for form and on an apparent slide away from your best. Like Wayne Rooney.
These are personal life choices and life is meant to be enjoyed, but from a purely football perspective, put yourself in the shoes of a Manchester United fan.
Or Jose Mourinho for that matter. I wouldn’t want my players pie-eyed in the run-up to a game.
Compare this to the attitude and statuesque physique of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has just signed a six-year deal at Real Madrid and predicted he still has 10 years left in the game.
Injuries aside, you wouldn’t bet against him still playing at 40, would you?
You can’t excuse backgrounds, for they are both of similar ilk, but in culture and mindset, they are worlds apart.
Sadly, that can be now said of their influence on the pitch too.