Wayne Rooney’s first-half penalty against San Marino saw him equal Bobby Charlton’s long-standing scoring record for England, with 49 goals in 106 games.
With Rooney the current England captain and the Three Lions set for the European Championships next year, the record should be smashed imminently.
The landmark occasion could come tonight at Wembley, as England host Switzerland in what’s now only a showcase. There’s nothing to play for except pride, performance and the small matter of one particular record.
Charlton’s last goal came in 1970 and the record has stood ever since. Gary Linekar came agonisingly close just over twenty years ago, famously having a penalty saved and never scoring for his national side again.
So, that’s 45 years the record has been standing and Rooney is set to make a new record imminently. The question is, will Rooney’s tally stand for the same length as Charlton’s or longer? Or could the record be beaten in the next two decades.
I’d suggest it’s the latter. Linekar came close in the 90’s and at the turn of the millennia Michael Owen was pushing towards the target. His final tally stands at 40, making him the 5th top-scorer in England history, and it’s worth remembering the back-end of his international career was plagued with injury.
Rooney’s record of a goal every 2.2 games is a solid return and it’s difficult to improve on. However, it’s reasonable to say England may have expected a better return from the forward- and if England manage to develop a world class striker in the future, the record should be shattered.
The Manchester United man has only scored six goals in international competitions, five of which came during his Euro 2004 breakthrough and one came as part of a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in last summer’s World Cup – where England infamously fell at the first hurdle.
That means Rooney went ten years without scoring in a competitive tournament and whilst his record of 28 goals in qualifiers is a very good return, you have to remember that half the time these are against extremely poor opponents.
Whilst these games are ranked as important and competitive fixtures, you’d expect a forward of Rooney’s calibre to be hitting these targets- if not more. On the international competition stage, Rooney’s tally of six goals in 11 years is equalled by Gary Linekar at the 1986 World Cup alone.
That’s why Rooney must look back at his international career with some regrets. It’s all very well scoring these goals in friendlies and games England are expected to win but internationals are about being the best- something Rooney hasn’t quite done.
Charlton’s England career last 12 years, Rooney has just hit the same mark whilst Linekar’s England fame was around seven years. We’ll use 12 years as a benchmark and assume that the next top England striker will achieve a similar stint.
That gives a player four international tournaments and top strikers should hit at least 3 goals during a tournament, making 12 goals overall. In qualifying, usually ten matches, a tally of at least five is expected. From those assumptions that’s 32 goals already, 17 behind the record and we haven’t taken friendlies or anything into account.
Perhaps I’m being harsh or maybe you agree but the most crucial thing is that for a nation like England these numbers are pointless. We shouldn’t be celebrating long-servers to the national side, we should be celebrating success.
If Rooney doesn’t feature at the next World Cup and Harry Kane wins the Golden Boot, then he would have already had more of an impact on the national stage where it matters.