Wayne's foolish gamble: Las Vegas trip before Euros left him a busted flush
12:43 GMT, 28 June 2012
A little more than a month before he hopes to win gold in the Olympic triathlon in Hyde Park, Alistair Brownlee is in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz. He is there with his younger brother Jonathan, swimming, cycling and running at high altitude in preparation for the Games.
Little more than a month before that game against Ukraine in Donetsk last week, Wayne Rooney was in Las Vegas. He was completing his very own triathlon. One that included partying, eating and probably a bit of drinking, too.
Brownlee is ploughing up and down a swimming pool. Rooney lazed on a sun lounger in his hotel.
Las Vegas is not renowned for its sporting facilities. There are some fine golf courses and they pump oxygen into the main casino halls to keep the punters awake.
Chips are down: Wayne Rooney in Las Vegas with former team-mate Wes Brown
But nobody comes out of there ready for 120 minutes of quarter-final action against Italy. Vegas is the world capital of excess. Great fun but not somewhere that lures the finest athletes on the planet a few weeks before a major competition.
Unless, that is, you happen to be Rooney and unless you have a new England manager who probably wasn’t in the job long enough to implement those kind of ground rules.
Before the next World Cup, one would hope Hodgson has a word with his players and asks them not to go anywhere that involves an 11-hour flight and provides only basic hotel gym facilities.
Going to Vegas was not Rooney’s only mistake. That red card in Montenegro proved every bit as costly. Probably more. It forced Hodgson to limit him to half-an-hour of second-half action in the two pre-tournament friendlies and left the 26-year-old striker reduced to the role of spectator as his colleagues tried to sharpen their skills against France and Sweden.
Struggling: Rooney seemed out of condition in Ukraine
The value of taking Rooney to Ukraine with them on both those occasions might be worth looking at, too. It enabled him to be part of England’s journey, to be there as that sense of spirit and unity grew.
But his time might have been better served working back here with a fitness coach, just as it would have made sense to ask Rooney to report for international duty with the majority of England’s players before the Norway game and not when Chelsea’s Champions League players joined up. It was just more time for him to lose condition.
In Krakow on Monday, Hodgson dismissed talk of Rooney’s fitness being an issue. This surprised most observers who saw how a purple-faced the 26-year-old forward appeared to be blowing after 25 minutes against Ukraine and Italy; who performed so far below his usual high standards. He looked heavy and sluggish.
Far from his peak: Rooney lacked his trademark burst of pace at Euro 2012
On Monday Hodgson said there was nothing that had shown up in his fitness tests to cause concern. /06/27/article-0-13C4C601000005DC-270_634x337.jpg” width=”634″ height=”337″ alt=”Ground rules: Roy Hodgson must avoid a repeat in future” class=”blkBorder” />
Ground rules: Roy Hodgson must avoid a repeat in future
In 2006, Rooney was injured. In 2010 he was returning from injury and distracted by problems that were about to emerge in his private life. This time mistakes were clearly made prior to his first appearance at Euro 2012.
But this time they were mistakes that were so avoidable. Stupid, self-destructive mistakes. The red card and the trip to the home of red or black. They are mistakes Hodgson and Rooney must now learn from in an effort to deliver him to Brazil with half a chance of performing on the world stage, a decade after his last decent contribution at a major tournament.
He returned to the US on holiday, this time to Los Angeles with wife Coleen on Wednesday. In two years’ time he must avoid these trips until after the big event.