As if the media hype surrounding Ryan Giggs last season – and him subsequently being given the PFA Player of the Year award – wasn’t bemusing enough, the media are attempting to contrive a one horse race for this year’s honour.
The benefit of being English and playing well in a World Cup year to Rooney is so insurmountable in the race to be given the PFA award that it may as well be re-branded the ‘Wayne Rooney award’, presumably doled out for being the outstanding candidate from a pre-selected pool of one. Absurdly, Rooney – aged 24 – has also been shortlisted for the young player of the year award.
I have no problem with Wayne Rooney being shortlisted for the award, which he was today, or indeed him actually winning the thing. He has had an excellent season, has carried Man Utd and even I’d be hard pushed to come up with a 100% concrete argument that any other player has bested him. He will be a deserving winner of any award. But I resent the overwhelming media circus that has come to surround him which now seems to be reaching a crescendo.
Want evidence of this media obsession? Look no further than the headline on the BBC website reporting the shortlist. The headline reads: ‘Man Utd striker Wayne Rooney shortlisted for PFA award’. Interesting – and what about the other players? Focusing on the Liverpudlian in the headline makes no sense – the announcement isn’t in the least surprising. Had Owen Hargreaves, Manuel Almunia or Robbie Savage been in the running, I would be less perturbed at the domination of their name in the headline. But that didn’t happen.
The media love-in for Wayne Rooney is everywhere. Commentators seem to want to talk about him even when Utd aren’t playing, and print journalists seem willing to forget his aggressive tantrums (which haven’t disappeared) and, particularly as Terry vacated morality over the last few months, as they laud Rooney as some kind of reformed character and perfect role model. Until they had their eyes opened by Messi’s performance against Arsenal last week, the journalist community were convinced Rooney was the best player on the planet.
Other players deserve a balanced appraisal from the media, especially in a year where – unlike last season – the top teams are far more evenly matched.
I’ve compared Drogba with Rooney before, but let’s remind ourselves of the figures. Rooney has scored 26 goals in the league (once every 95 minutes on average), Drogba 25 (once every 96 minutes). Rooney has made 5 assists, Drogba 11 – meaning that Rooney has ‘contributed’ a goal every 79 minutes to Drogba’s one every 67. And, while Utd fans won’t believe it, Drogba does just as much work tracking back as Rooney does, and shows just as much commitment. And he doesn’t take penalties. Who would have thought that the two were so closely matched and that there was at least one other convincing candidate (Fabregas has been outstanding too) for player of the year? Well, no-one reading a newspaper.
Journalists should bring balance first and foremost, in addition to opinion, and the BBC should in particular. Rooney will win the award next month, but in the meantime he needs no extra help.