Martin Smith column: Time to appreciate the legend that is Wayne Rooney

England's Wayne Rooney stretches to control the ball in the air during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle.
England's Wayne Rooney stretches to control the ball in the air during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle.
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Who cares about Wayne Rooney and his bloody goal scoring record?

In the build-up to England’s game against San Marino – and the five England games before that – we’ve heard nothing but. ‘Will he equal Bobby Charlton’s record?’ ‘When will he break Bobby Charlton’s record?’Do England supporters care?

Surely they see a man who has disappointed on the biggest stages - European Championships and World Cups. A man who has had discipline issues, a chequered off-field reputation and a couple of scandals behind him. A millionaire who hasn’t produced his best form for his country since Euro 2004. Or do they?

Read some newspapers or the hideously aggressive internet opinion and that’s all you’ll see. But look at the numbers.

He’s been playing Premier League for 12 years for the most successful club side in English football history. He has five Premier League winners medals, two league cups and a Champions League medal. 170 goals for Manchester United, 49 for England.

He has been every version of the footballer of the year, he’ll probably be United’s all-time top goalscorer by the end of this season. He’s consistently been their best player in the most successful period of that club’s glorious history.

Who has done more for club and country in the last decade? Where are his contemporaries? The other 30-year-old Englishmen who have done anything like as much? Not one to be found.

Stop wishing he was Messi or Ronaldo and look what England’s goal scoring stats would be without him for the last decade. Yes, he can be frustrating and he has had poor international tournaments in poor teams. We should all care about Wayne Rooney’s goal scoring record? Every England fan should stand and applaud, whether they’re in the pub, at the game or in their front room watching England v Switzerland tonight if he gets his 50th goal.

There aren’t many Rooneys in a lifetime. Be glad you’ve seen him and tell your grandchildren that you saw the man whose record for club and country will still stand as long as Sir Bobby Charlton’s did, maybe longer.

Should he be mentioned in the same breath as that world cup winner?

Of course he should.

Like Charlton he’s been the best English attacking player of his generation by miles.