Aidan Smith: If Scotland could have had one of England's 'golden generation', who would it be?

Here’s a question for you: if Scotland had to take one of England’s “golden generation” - there being no option but to accept him into our group of bonnie fechters - who would it be?

Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen at the world premiere of his warts-and-all documentary
Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen at the world premiere of his warts-and-all documentary

I’m talking about the team who were going to win the 2006 World Cup, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s destiny boys, a good half-dozen of them being so perky about the possibility of triumph in Germany that they signed pre-tournament book deals to rush out their life stories immediately after the final, the closing chapters left blank for ghost writers to batter out delirious words of exultation.

Well, it probably wouldn’t be Ashley Cole who sounded temperamentally unsuited to life in dark blue when confessing that a wage offer of £55,000 a week - plenty enough 16 years ago - very nearly caused him to crash his car.

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It probably wouldn’t be Frank Lampard who seemed remarkably inflexible and inhospitable towards Steven Gerrard when all the Liverpool man wanted to do was be in the midfield like him.

It probably wouldn’t be “Stevie G” either, given he had no greater claim to the playmaker role than “Lamps”, and didn’t kindergarten teach this pair the importance of sharing when they were hogging all the My Little Ponys? (A top-rated toy when these two were four years old, I checked).

It certainly wouldn’t be John Terry who, despite being banned from a Champions League final, quick-changed into full kit to be front and centre in the celebration photos, believing that history and stadium tours would forget that “JT” never played because he even slipped on his shinpads. A shameless display of vanity, ego and attention to demented detail in the curation of one’s own legend which was only topped by … who have we forgotten?

David Beckham. Goldengonads. Metrosexual of the Year (continuous). A clothes-horse off the pitch who moved like one on it. A life drawing class’s dream model even during play, waiting for free-kick opportunities. The most tattooed, the most hyped, the most frivolous, the son Eriksson never had, the beginning of the end for the English game’s soul. So, not him either then, not for us, which only leaves one man, one author, one culprit of 2006’s needless tree-pulping …

Wayne Rooney. It has to be him. Not much in common with Wayne Sleep, looked more like Mickey Rooney (when the latter was in his sixties). The man-boy, the assassin-faced baby, the footballer who was - incredible description, this, and incredible source, coming as it did from the German arthouse movie director Werner Herzog - “half-bison, half-viper”.

Herzog once spoke on film of a man who locked himself in a bathroom for 48 hours: “In his maniacal fury, he smashed everything to smithereens. The bathtub, the toilet bowl, everything. You could sift [the debris] through a tennis racket. It was really incredible.”

He was talking about what it was like to live with the actor Klaus Kinski but listening to Rooney these past few days, both in his Amazon Prime documentary and out there on the promotional circuit, it might be tempting to make comparisons with the chaos and craziness of the player’s life - from the scrapping in the street aged ten resulting in stitched-up eyes to the boxing bout with another Premier League pro in his kitchen ending in him knocked out on the floor.

Ah, so that’s why he’d be a good fit for Scotland - the self-destructiveness? No, actually, I was thinking of that outrageous bicycle kick in the Manchester derby in 2011. I’m pretty sure that all overhead routes to goal were established almost 50 years before by Denis Law and here was a stunning modern interpretation of the great craftsman’s art.

But, you know, I’m not saying the drama of Wayne’s World - the opera of it - is without appeal. Who has not followed, even just for a little bit on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, the “Wagatha Christie” bitch-athon between Rooney’s wife Coleen and Rebekah Vardy? And who has failed to be impressed by Vardy’s use of simile and the fierce lyricism of her reasoning when it’s suggested the pair sit down together for a frank, cards-on-the-table chat: “That would be like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to s**t in your hair.”?

In truth, you can hardly miss this stuff right now. It seems a bigger story than what’s going wrong at Derby County where Rooney is the embattled manager. And there’s lots in the Amazon Prime doc about his private life, lived of course in full public glare, and given the mistakes he’s made in this arena, perhaps he felt it was necessary for the film to be almost a for-the-record apology to the missus, just before Valentine’s Day.

What that means, though, is that sometimes the football - and those volcanic eruptions when they were confined to the pitch - get short shrift. As has been pointed out by English commentators who’ll feel this disappointment more keenly than me, there’s scant mention of his notable goalscoring feats.

Hell mend English football, you might say, for going so showbizzy. But I remember when this chunky tyke, just 16 and straight outta Croxteth with a borstal buzzcut, came to Easter Road for a pre-season friendly where he scored a goal and started a 22-man pagger before being hauled off by David Moyes who would go on to dub Rooney “the last of the street footballers”.

“Sumo!” yelled the Hibs fans that day and he probably muttered to himself: “Scotch gits, I’ll show you.” Two years later at the 2004 Euros he did and but for injury would probably have won England the tournament. So, yes, who would we have? Rooney all the way.

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