David Preece: Rooney gave us hope like Gazza did – but he’s lost the will now

England's Wayne Rooney receives the captain's armband from Jordan Henderson after coming on as a subtitute during the World Cup Qualifying match at the Stozice Stadium in Ljubljana.
England's Wayne Rooney receives the captain's armband from Jordan Henderson after coming on as a subtitute during the World Cup Qualifying match at the Stozice Stadium in Ljubljana.

With change, there has to come a certain amount of acceptance.

Football has changed and is constantly evolving.

In many of its aspects, football bears no resemblance to an ideology that we once held it to.

It’s time to let go of the perceptions of what once was and accept the game we now have.

It’s now a game where we praise a footballer for showing a perfectly reasonable reaction to being dropped and showing respect to his manager.

It’s now a game where we applaud a manager for being “brave” enough to drop that player because of his status rather than it just being the right thing to do in the interest of the team.

It’s now a game where we boo that player because they aren’t having the effect on a game they once did. It’s now a game where family members publicly defend a player from the criticism he receives when he isn’t living up to his enormous salary.

It’s a game that seems to be away from that player. That player is Wayne Rooney.

The decline of Rooney’s performances has been over dramatised because once he was our great hope. The boos of disapproval aren’t solely down to his performances on the pitch, they come with the disappointment that Rooney’s star is falling and with it, the hopes we invested in him are fading too.

The Golden Generation may have been littered with Beckhams, Rios and Stevie Gs, but Wayne Rooney was the one we’d pinned all our hopes on, and now that hope is almost gone.

For my generation and beyond, he was a throwback, a reincarnation of 1990 Gazza.

He was one of us, playing with the anger of all our pent-up frustrations and the fervour of every 10-year-old kid who dreamt of captaining his country. But over time, change came. The passion gradually dissipated, the exuberance became petulance and when I look at him now, I see a vagueness in his demeanour that screams disinterest and frustration at himself for not being the player he once was.

Physical attributes may leave you but their loss is nothing compared to that of will and desire.

You can compensate the slowing of the legs with the quickness of your mind, but without will there is no way.

Rooney has been, and on occasion will still be, an exceptional footballer who can influence games but it’s time for a break for him. A break from the England side, perhaps even English football, to find that enjoyment again. His play and energy look forced, as if playing football is an effort.

It’s testament to his talent that it has taken him this long to have a dip in form, for most it comes much sooner.

Players like Rooney who play on the edge of their emotions see their motivation diluted by their lifestyles but regardless of wealth and status, civility comes to every player at some point.

There are plenty of players who benefit from maturity but for players like Rooney, it can be damaging. Without that edge they become less effective.

There’s a point when you stop chasing hopeless causes and restrict your thinking to reason inside a comfort zone.

Strikers begin to drop short towards the ball because runs in behind take more effort and probability of getting on the end of the pass aren’t as great.

And when you have played that way from an early age, it’s difficult to readjust.

The likes of Giggs, Sheringham and Totti have flourished in the autumns of their careers and now it’s Rooney’s choice whether to join them or simply fade away.