BCFC: The Rooney Reaction

After a convincing 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Friday night I was fairly sure that the weekend would be a chill and relaxing one from a Blues perspective. Unforunately, Blues don’t do normal, with the rumours of Wayne Rooney being given the Blues job resurfacing and solidifying.

Main Stand St Andrews

As of the time I’m writing this there is no official news and I’m semi-hoping it stays that way for at least a short time after I publish it so that this article makes some sense.

However, I suspect this story will move quickly and as such I beg forgiveness that I’m not better equipped to know for sure what is going to happen in the immediate future.

What is the current situation?

Officially, nothing has happened yet. John Eustace remains Blues manager, while Wayne Rooney stepped away from his role at DC United on Sunday after failing to guide them to the end of season playoffs.

There was some question whether Rooney would even be on the sidelines for DC United’s final game of the season against New York City, with the Washington Post reporting on Friday that Rooney had missed training that day.

“D.C. United Coach Wayne Rooney was not at Friday’s training session, the day before the regular season finale against New York City FC and amid uncertainty whether he will return next year.

The club said it does expect Rooney to be on the sideline Saturday night at Audi Field.

A United spokesman said Rooney had a “last-minute conflict.” His staff oversaw the morning workout at Inova Performance Complex in Leesburg, and assistant Pete Shuttleworth handled media responsibilities, as he has done on occasion this year.”

Whether that “last-minute conflict” was some Halloween shopping or an interview with someone like Tom Wagner we don’t know, but his post-match interview was intriguing.

“…whether opportunities come up, I’ve seen a lot of reports in the media. I’m going back there with nothing lined up. I’m going back there [England] to see my family, if something comes up in October or November of course I’ll look at it.”

Alex Dicken of the Birmingham Mail tweeted that there has been no comment whatsoever from the club, while Neil Moxley tweeted that there had been a complete silence from his contacts as to what is happening.

I’m in the same boat as Moxley. I’ve sent WhatsApp messages to a few people, and while I can see that they’ve been read there have been zero replies.

This wall of silence is what leads me to believe that this story is more than just a load of clickbait.

There has also been some news as to who might follow Rooney to Blues.

London-based football journalist Aaron Paul tweeted on Sunday afternoon that the deal with Rooney has been done, and went on to say that Ashley Cole and John O’Shea would join Rooney at Blues as part of his backroom staff.

Cole is currently England under-21 assistant coach where he is working with former Blues caretaker manager Lee Carsley, while John O’Shea is assistant coach with the Republic of Ireland team, a job which ironically was previously held by Eustace.

The only comment I’ve seen online from any of Blues coaching staff was from Blues goalkeeping coach Maik Taylor, who refuted any rumour of him departing the club.

Déjà vu

With Blues currently lying sixth in the table, the rumours surrounding the potential departure of Eustace have dragged up memories of the end of Gary Rowett’s tenure at St Andrew’s.

Rowett departed Blues in December 2016, with the team 7th in the Championship having beaten Ipswich 2-1. He was replaced by Gianfranco Zola, whose disastrous reign saw Blues plunge down the table into near relegation trouble before the Italian quit in April 2017.

While the similarities look obvious, I personally do not believe that the potential situation with Eustace and Rooney is much like what transpired back then.

The biggest similarity I can see between the two situations is that while Rowett won his last game, the two before it were heavy defeats to Barnsley (3-0 at home) and Newcastle United (4-0 away).

The Newcastle game in particular went down like a lead balloon with majority shareholders Trilion Trophy Asia and I’m fairly sure that the decision to let Rowett go was made in the immediate wake of that loss.

Fast forward to now, and I think Eustace has been in a similar situation.

As great as the wins over Huddersfield and the Baggies were, I think the manner of recent defeats – to Preston and Norwich in particular – had given the new regime the excuse they needed to bring their own man in.

Now I don’t know this for sure, but I would not be surprised at all if Eustace was aware that he was going to lose his job before the Baggies game.

The international break is always going to be the best time to change over managers and the reaction from Eustace to the third Blues goal in particular on Friday night strikes me as one of a man who feels he has shown everything that could be asked of him.

Yet this where I think the similarities end.

It’s a long-argued point, but the fact remains that Rowett had pissed off the then-owners of Blues by touting himself around for other jobs, using a potential offer to leverage a better contract for himself.

From what I know Blues had contacted Zola a while before Rowett was sacked, making the decision to go with the Italian based on his name and prominence before anything else.

I’ve told the story before, but there is an apocryphal story that the interview process included one director at the time asking Zola for his autograph.

While Eustace has been linked to the Rangers job, based on the little bits I know of the Blues boss I genuinely do not think he’d have been interested in it.

There have been a couple of pieces in the press which feel like they’ve been planted to help add to Eustace’s kudos but that self-promotion is not close to anything Rowett did.

Likewise, while I think there is interest in Rooney from the current owners due to his huge online presence and past sporting achievements, I also think that this is an appointment based on familiarity.

It’s my belief that any appointment of Rooney would be driven by Blues CEO Garry Cook.

Cook would have seen Rooney at work at Derby while Cook was connected to Chris Kirchner’s ill-fated bid to buy the Rams. Indeed, Cook was seen at Pride Park alongside Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford and both were part of Kirchner’s would-be backroom team.

As much as this situation smacks of nepotism, this is the reality of what football is.

I’ve seen it repeatedly when executives and coaches gravitate to players and staff that they know or are connected to, and it’s never going to change.

The only thing I would take from this is that should Rooney fail, then Cook could face the same ruthlessness used to get rid of Eustace despite him doing an okay job.

The Reaction

One of the things that has most disappointed me over this weekend has been the over reaction from some Blues fans to this potential news.

For example, someone picked up that Wayne Rooney’s son Kai had followed lots of Blues player accounts on Instagram very recently.

I don’t take much notice of this sort of thing myself, but some Blues fans took it upon themselves to direct message Kai to tell him in no uncertain terms that he and his father were not welcome.

Sending abuse like that online is outrageous in itself, but to do so to a 13-year-old child is beyond the pale. Anyone who thinks that is a good thing to do needs to reassess their life priorities.

Likewise I’ve seen a few people online call for Garry Cook to be sacked because of this story.

While I can accept that Wayne Rooney might not be a popular choice, to demand Cook to receive his P45 is one hell of a hyperbolic reaction.

As it stands, nothing has happened and it’s easily possible that nothing will happen.

Even if it does happen and Eustace is let go, there is nothing to say that Rooney’s hypothetical reign at the club won’t be a success.

After all, the future is unwritten, and I’ve seen enough in my life to know it’s a folly to believe that one knows exactly what will happen.

I know that some people have been mad because Blues have not said anything about this story but I think that’s to be expected to.

As much as people demand transparency, for me from a PR sense it makes sense that the club only says something when it has something to say.

If they can’t deny the story then I would expect them to keep quiet until they can announce what they are doing; something that may be held up by transatlantic flights and time zone differences.

In short, if ever there was a time for fans to take a step back to see what happens instead of going off on one online, this is it.

I think many of us expected the future at Blues to be smooth following the takeover by Shelby Companies Limited, especially bearing in mind the shit we’ve been through in the last decade.

For the most part it has been smooth but it is inevitable that there will be bumps along the way.

We need to remember unlike previous years, we have an ownership group which have tried hard to re-engage fans and to revitalise the club. Not every decision is going to be a popular one or indeed the right one; we have to accept that there may be mistakes along the way.

What is imperative now is whatever happens, Blues do not need to return to a situation where we’re changing managers every six months.

Even if there are more bumps along the road, we need to let go of the fear and uncertainty of recent years.

Now is the time of patience and hope – for all of us.