Fans Right to be Roo Boo Zealous

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Wayne Rooney sparked controversy as he hit back at booing fans after England’s game with Algeria, and Tyrone Marshall pulls no punches when criticising the actions of the underperforming superstar.

Wayne Rooney’s reaction to the mutiny from the stands at the end of England’s dreadful performance against Algeria sums up the increasingly disparate status of those who wear the Three Lions and those who support them.

Much of England is falling out of love with the national team, and Rooney’s crass and misjudged remarks to television cameras at the end of the game encapsulate the relationship.

At a time when the working and middle classes, the heartbeat of England’s support, face pay freezes and sweeping redundancies, footballers are becoming increasingly detached from reality.

Debates on the merits and rights or wrongs of booing your own team can be found up and down the country shortly after 5pm on most Saturday’s in the year, but if ever a group of fans had a right to a voice, it is those England fans who have saved for months, maybe years, to watch their nation’s best footballers in the World Cup finals.

Players representing England are fortunate that they are almost without fail the best supported travelling team at a major tournament, both numerically and vocally.

The numbers that fled to the Far East in 2002 were extraordinary and this time the St George flags have once again dominated the grounds in Rustenberg and Cape Town where England have played.

Wayne Rooney is idolised by the thousands who have taken weeks off work to follow England in South Africa, but he can’t expect the adulation to flow if he, and his teammates, produce one of the most abject displays by an England team in many a year.

The failure of players such as Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to convert their club form to the national stage has frustrated supporters, but it is not the primary reason that the divide between the two groups is as wide as ever.

The scandals involving John Terry and Ashley Cole were seized upon by the tabloid press this year, and their behaviour alienated a significant portion of the country.

At the time the story broke many fans still backed Terry and Cole, after all their private lives should be just that, but the reaction from them only increased the anger.

Speaking on the pitch after Chelsea had clinched the Premier League title on the last day of the season, both spoke of their traumatic years and the difficult times they had gone through, they appeared to have forgotten that both had been the artefacts of their own downfall, and had caused pain to other parties as well.

Financially Premier League footballers are as well rewarded as they have ever been, yet Ashley Cole’s remarks in his autobiography about nearly crashing his car when he found out Arsenal were only prepared to offer him £55,000 a week show a quite staggering detachment from the real word.

Likewise stories about John Terry supposedly selling tours around Chelsea’s Cobham training ground for as much as £10,000 and seeking to cash in on his England captaincy suggest even those earning over £100,000 a week long for more.

It is indefensible actions such as these that have created the canyon now seen between players and fans.

Of course not all players are the same. At the same time as Rooney was giving his unscripted views on the support, Steven Gerrard was giving an unflinchingly honest assessment of the performance in an interview he clearly didn’t want to participate in, but did because he understands his duties.

David James has also matured down the years and his regular newspaper column shows a thinking-man’s footballer who is an eloquent speaker and campaigner.

The majority of English people still want their team to succeed and to progress in these finals, but their respect for many of those wearing the shirt has been washed away on a wave of lies, deceit and greed.

Wayne Rooney should be one of the most down to earth and in touch players in the squad, raised on the housing estates of Croxteth, he is the working class lad made good.

But he appears to be the latest player to have left reality and the bond between player and supporters has suffered again.

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