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English Premier League

Rooney’s Knockout – Why Should It Be Judged Differently?

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By now, you’ll probably have seen the footage of Wayne Rooney being hit flush in the face by former team-mate Phil Bardsley, leaving him lying prostrate and unconscious on his kitchen floor. The usual furore of opinion and debate has followed – does such behaviour make him a bad role model? Is he bringing the game into disrepute? Or are these, in fact, pointless and irrelevant arguments.

The footage of the incident, though grainy and of poor quality, is unmistakably Rooney. In many ways, its no different to the millions of ‘fail’ videos that pervade the internet in the modern age. It shows two young guys messing about at home, having a laugh and having (initially) harmless fun.

The reason it has received such widespread coverage is obvious – Rooney’s high profile both in the general media and in the modern game. The fact that the publication who made the video public is of more-than-questionable moral standing is a debate for another time but what can’t be denied is that the video has sparked a debate we’ve all seen before around the role of footballers as upholders of high morals in today’s society.

Such debates have been sparked in the past. Famous, or infamous, incidents that spring to mind include the alleged shooting incident involving Ashley Cole and then 21 year-old Tom Cowan at Chelsea‘s training ground in 2011. There’s the high profile affairs involving Ryan Giggs, John Terry and innocent party Wayne Bridge. And then, of course, we have the multitude of incidents which have kept the race debate burning, with both John Terry and Luis Suarez having served bans after being found guilty of using racist language on separate occasions involving Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, respectively.

There is, however, a need to tread carefully when considering such events. Rooney’s knockout has provoked some negative reaction from those always willing to lambast the lifestyle of the modern footballer. One Twitter user responded to a tweet by Gary Lineker on the issue, stating that it was ‘lots of people’s business’ what Wayne Rooney does in the privacy of his own home when he earns £300K a week.

And here’s where I begin to have a problem with the way this incident has been negatively covered in some quarters. There is a clear distinction between this particular event and those alluded to earlier. With Terry and Suarez, there’s no doubt that the race incidents should be treated with appropriate contempt. There’s no place in society for such behaviour – but looking at it purely in the footballing sphere, it was appropriate to analyze it in the context of footballers as role models. These were on-the-pitch incidents, where such actions are part of the game and, therefore, subject to scrutiny within those parameters. Even in the case of Giggs, there is an argument that his behaviour was somewhat public in nature and, therefore, left him open to derision in the same context. That, of course, is an argument left open to debate and not necessarily one I agree with personally.

Where the punching incident involving Rooney differs greatly is that this was footage of a man in the privacy of his own home, relaxing and enjoying time with people he should be able to trust. We’ve all, I’m sure, done silly, dangerous or regrettable things we would not wish to be published for the consumption of the general public. The difference is that we are afforded that privacy. Rooney, in this instance, has not been.

Rooney is not without blemish on his record, of course. He’s made a number of high profile gaffes that have left him open to criticism. But, again, those incidents were of a more public nature and, as such, should be treated differently to the knockout. How Rooney feels himself, we can only guess. We can continue to criticize the newspaper involved but more key to the issue, perhaps, is the fact that Rooney’s confidence has been broken. You don’t spend time messing around in the kitchen of a multi-millionaire footballer in that way unless you’re part of his trusted circle. Someone in that circle has abused that trust and has used the footage gained for their own benefit. Of course, any financial gain for any party involved cannot be confirmed.

What’s been encouraging, perhaps, is Rooney’s public self-mocking in the wake of the video’s release. Having scored one of the goals in the recent 3-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur by simulating receiving a knockout punch, falling back and lying star-shaped on the pitch before being ‘brought round’ by a team-mate. He’s managed to take the upper hand in doing so, turning a video in which he could be so easily mocked into something he can, himself, manipulate for his own gain. And, furthermore, it brought the true nature of what happened into sharp perspective. This was not, like so many before, an incident which should make us question societal morals or the supposedly decadent lifestyles led by modern footballers. It was two guys, having a bit of fun and, though dangerous, essentially harmless. There have been many occasions in which Rooney has been rightly criticized but this, in my opinion, is not one of them.

English Premier League

Shani Tarashaj is back in action for Everton, but does he have future at club?

The Swiss international has struggled with injury and illness at Everton.

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Friday evening saw Everton play their final under-23 game of the season. The side battled to a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, with Matty Foulds and Luke Garbutt the unlikely goalscorers. The fixture also saw the appearance from the bench of a forgotten Everton player – Shani Tarashaj.

Back in January 2016, the then Everton boss Roberto Martinez signed Swiss international Shani Tarashaj from Grasshoppers Zurich. The fee involved, according to the Liverpool Echo, was around £3 million for a player that Martinez had high hopes for.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The young attacker had come through the ranks at Grasshoppers and was immediately loaned back to them until the end of the season. He continued his fine form, which saw him earn a first Swiss cap and make the national squad for Euro 2016.

All the signs pointed to a future Everton star, but that has not been the case. Instead, Tarashaj has flopped at Everton and it would be no surprise if he was sold by the club this summer.

So what went wrong?

Firstly, the change of manager. It was Martinez who brought Tarashaj to the club in the same window he had signed Oumar Niasse. Once the Spaniard left, getting into Ronald Koeman ’s plans was always going to be a more difficult task.

Tarashaj then spent 2016-17 on loan at German side Eintracht Frankfurt. He struggled to make an impact in Germany and to compound his misery, injury and illness have struck.

(during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.

Benign angina and severe tonsillitis have disrupted the sickly Swiss’ career on Merseyside before he suffered knee ligament damage last summer, which required surgery.

This season, the attacking midfielder has managed just two appearances for Everton’s under-23s and his career as a Toffee has, so far, been one to forget.

There is still hope for the Swiss international. He still has two years left on his contract at Everton and perhaps there is still a chance he can make it at Goodison Park. But two-and-a-half years after first signing for the club, Tarashaj is still waiting to make his Everton debut.

The Manchester United tie may very well prove to be his last as an Everton player.

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Manchester United

Tottenham’s decision to rush back Harry Kane cost them in the FA Cup

The England international has only recently come back from injury.

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Harry Kane
Photo: Getty Images

Harry Kane was a shadow of his former self against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final Saturday afternoon, contributing little as Tottenham Hotspur fell to a 2-1 defeat.

The English international struggled to influence the match and was clearly off the pace. It is glaringly clear that Mauricio Pochettino rushed Kane back from his ankle injury far too soon; a decision that may well have cost Spurs their best recent chance at silverware.

Back in March, the striker crumpled under an awkward challenge from Bournemouth‘s Asmir Begovic and left the match on crutches. Spurs fans held their breath in fear and were crushed when it was later revealed Kane had suffered ligament damage.

It was a blow that was widely expected to keep Kane on the sidelines for the next couple months, but remarkably the striker returned just three weeks later in a 3-1 away win against Chelsea.

However, in the following run of matches leading up to the season-defining encounter against Manchester United, Kane had largely looked unfit and missing his classic verve and intensity that has come to define his game.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

This lethargy was notably on show in the midweek fixture against Brighton. Although the 24-year-old scored a goal, he appeared tired and unwilling to make his characteristic attacking runs behind the defence.

On the biggest stage of them all, Tottenham’s star striker was well off his prolific best. It was a shame that Kane could not rise to the Wembley occasion and send Spurs to the FA Cup final.

However, it is through no fault of the Englishman, as the blame must be placed on the over-eager Tottenham backroom staff. There was no need to rush Kane back for the league matches before the massive semifinal, and the striker should have been saved for the United match.

As a result of Pochettino’s poor decision, Spurs are trophy-less and Kane is damaged – a tragic turn of events for the north London club.

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Championship

Conor Coady shows Liverpool what they’re missing in masterful Wolves campaign

The Wolves captain was tipped for big things at Liverpool but never made the grade.

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Back in 2011, Liverpool had one of their young starlets being tipped to become the ‘next Steven Gerrard.’ It was a tag being occasionally branded around the club about young talent Conor Coady. With good reason as well. The teenager was looking like the most natural successor to Gerrard yet.

The summer previous, he had helped England win the UEFA under-17 Championships, which is where the hype all began. Liverpool had unearthed a gem who immediately found himself tipped to become a future Kop captain.

But it never happened for the young man.

(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Instead, he headed to Sheffield United on loan – where he excelled. After getting a taste for regular football, the idea of returning to the reserve life with Liverpool clearly did not appeal to the utility man. Therefore, he left Liverpool in 2014, joining Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool fans soon forgot about him. Just another hyped up youngster who could not match the expectations laid at their door?

Well, this season Coady has finally looked like the real deal.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Melwood talent did not stick with Huddersfield for long. In 2015 he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and he is now looking like the talent Liverpool thought they had at Molineux.

One issue with Coady has always been his position. Often moved around the park, this season he has played as a settled central defender. The results have been exceptional. Coady has been one of the best players in the Championship this campaign. That was highlighted by his inclusion in the Championship team of the season. The 25-year-old is now looking like a future Premier League star and will be playing in the big time next season after captaining Wolves to the Championship summit.

When Liverpool sold Coady to Huddersfield, they did so for a fee reported to be just £500,000 by the Liverpool Echo. The Reds obviously felt he would not live up to those once lofty expectations.

Based on his form this season, Liverpool could be rueing this mistake in the not so distant future.

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