'Rough diamond' Rooney is great for English football

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The on-off relationship between Wayne Rooney and the national press continues to rear its ugly head, with the latest media frenzy surrounding the Manchester United striker centered around the fact he was dropped by Sir Alex Ferguson after an alleged 'boozey' night out last month.

The furore that continues to overshadow our country's leading light in modern day football, is reminiscent of ex-England and Tottenham star Paul Gascoigne, who also endured a turbulent career in the spotlight.

In the wake of United's thrilling FA Cup third round victory over local rivals Manchester City last week - a match in which Rooney netted twice to confirm the club's progression to the next round - Ferguson admitted that his star turn possesses similar traits to that of Gascoigne, saying that the fact that every flaw in his character is likely to be exposed is just something he has to accept, and is part and parcel of his ever-growing profile.

"Wayne Rooney is a headline-maker, good or bad," exclaimed the Red Devils boss. "He has to realise the press have another Gascoigne.

"It is the situation that existed years ago. He will have to suffer it. Any flaws will be absolutely annihilated."

Gascoigne was considered the best player of his generation, but his career was scarred by a series of tabloid scandals - and Rooney, whose story has a number of familiar tales, is at risk of treading a similarly treacherous path.

On breaking into Everton's first-team in 2002, Rooney was handed Gascoigne's old No.18 shirt, and after making his international debut less than six months later, the 17-year-old was already being labelled the new English lion-heart, charged with ending a nation's mounting years of hurt.

In homage to 'Gazza', as the former Spurs star was affectionately known, even Rooney's teammates played up to the pipe-dream that surrounded the new messiah, nicknaming him 'Wazza' - a term that has become accustomed to the striker, now aged 26.

However, Rooney hasn't even entered the prime of his career, and already his achievements within the game eclipse the trophy return of his so-called predecessor.

Four Premier League titles, two League Cup medals, and one Champions League success - compared to Gascoigne's solitary FA Cup [which accompanies an array of medals from his time in Scotland with Rangers], carries significantly more clout, and promise for the future.

Admittedly, where 'Gazza' usurps 'Wazza' is on the international stage - the former will point to Italia '90 as a career-defining tournament, whereas Rooney, despite an impressive showing at Euro 2004, is yet to really light up a major tournament for England.

The fact that Rooney will be a latecomer to this summer's Euro 2012, following his two-game suspension for the red card received in Montenegro in the final qualification game, perhaps sums up his stop-start impact for the Three Lions.

To be regarded as the very best, Rooney knows he needs these iconic international moments to make him the complete player, but time is very much on the Manchester United striker's side, with his focus for continued success stronger than ever under the tutelage of Ferguson at Old Trafford.

It's true that Gascoigne came close to signing for United when he opted instead to move to White Hart Lane, leading to questions wondering how he would have fared himself under the authoritarian rule of Sir Alex.

"Managing him would be no joyride, but the hazards that went with the talent would never put me off," Ferguson reflected of Gascoigne in 1999.

The same can now be said for Rooney, and whilst both players may be heralded as 'rough diamonds', if one thing's for certain, it's that England needs more gems like these.

Premier League
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney

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