Chris Goreham: Why Rooney’s winner was just so Norwich City

Rooney's late free-kick stole the win for the Rams. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Rooney's late free-kick stole the win for the Rams. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

How can a very average Championship game be settled by a moment of brilliance from England’s all-time leading goal scorer? It doesn’t seem right.

When Wayne Rooney placed the ball just outside the Norwich City penalty area on Saturday it was clear what was about to happen. It was like playing an Xbox game against someone who knows how to activate a glitch in the software. Or one of those tedious conversations where people like to tell you how well they’ve done on Football Manager.

Wayne Rooney should be winning games for England and Manchester United not bending in free-kicks in The Championship. The Canaries escaped from The Premier League over the summer to avoid being on the wrong end of just this sort of masterclass.

We must now expect David Beckham to join Rotherham United in time to play against Norwich City after the international break. If Birmingham City win at Carrow Road in the game after that with a goal from Gary Lineker or Bobby Charlton don’t be surprised.

That’s the way things are going for City and Daniel Farke right now. I’m not saying the defeat to Derby was purely down to bad luck, it wasn’t.

The performances in the Championship so far haven’t lived up to the potential in the squad. They did grind out a win on the opening day at Huddersfield. Attempts to do the same at the weekend fell foul not just of Rooney but Teemu Pukki picking the wrong time to try out figure skating. His bizarre penalty miss was a Carrow Road moment more reminiscent of Dean Coney than Torvill and Dean. I’m sure a few supporters uttered words very similar to ‘Bolero’ as the unfortunate Finn lost his footing. Perhaps it was a last-ditch attempt to get on A Question of Sport’s ‘What Happened Next?’ round before Sue Barker leaves.

As frustrating as it was to watch Rooney score the winner it’s hard not to admire him for playing the Championship. There’s something gloriously old fashioned about a player prepared to drop down the divisions to end his career.

This is what it must have been like for Norwich City supporters in the 1970s when World Cup winner Martin Peters arrived at Carrow Road. Back then players needed to prolong their careers for financial reasons. Most who couldn’t eke out a few more years in the lower divisions would be destined for life as a lorry driver or running a pub to make ends meet. It’s not like that now. Premier League players who retire can either count the wheelbarrows they use to carry their money or make more of it with a move to play in exotic leagues in places like USA, India or China.

Rooney tried that too of course, spending 18 months with D.C. United in Washington. Cynics have suggested he’s only returned to England because he’s been promised the Derby manager’s job when it’s next up for grabs. If that were the case he could have planted that free kick about 10 rows back in The River End and his current boss, Phillip Cocu, might have been on the brink. But no, he had to stick in the top corner of the net didn’t he?

There has been a lot of emphasis on producing stars of the future at Norwich City in recent years. Daniel Farke’s created his own issues by being so good at nurturing young talent that they all keep either going or being linked with moves away. All that speculation and uncertainty has clearly weighed heavy on the team.

There is inspiration to be taken from that free kick on Saturday. It is still possible for some of the stars of Norwich City’s promotion campaign from two years ago to return to their former glories. Sometimes things that appear to have gone forever can make a dramatic comeback. Look at Rooney’s hairline.

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