Belfast Telegraph

Jane Graham: Did Coleen Rooney keep Wayne at Old Trafford?

By Jane Graham

Here’s a thought that might blow the mind of every male sportswriter and football fan in the country — could it have been Coleen who had the last word on which club Wayne would sign for?

For most male sports fans, this is thinking of the most unthinkable kind. Most men cheerfully admit that when it comes to the big issues, from where to live to what to call your children, wives and girlfriends usually have the last word.

But if the banter turns to sport-related decisions, total denial of the influence of the female species seems to be the only acceptable standpoint.

A cursory glance at the day’s news headlines tells us that human beings regularly make extraordinary sacrifices for their families, from donating organs to lending wombs.

Some will die or kill for love. Yet the notion that a footballer might canvas his wife’s opinion on which club to sign for is met with disbelief and derision by otherwise sensible men.

Not all of this paper’s female readers will be across the details of the story, but they’ll probably be aware there was a bit of a kerfuffle last week when Rooney — whom Manchester United fans had long assumed was lovingly beholden to their club — publicly asserted his intention to leave Utd, thus breaking poor old father figure Suralex Ferguson’s heart.

In the end Rooney performed a shocking U-turn and signed another five-year contract with United for an alleged £200,000 a week.

The debate, frenzied and lengthy, among fans and journalists, centred around the possible reasons for Rooney’s eventual choice. Had he secured a commitment from United that they were going to buy some big name players, thus proving they were ambitious enough to ‘deserve’ the likes of him? Or was he motivated purely by money?

Coleen’s well known closeness to her parents and disabled sister, as well as her oft-expressed determination to send her son to school in the local area — on top of her likely reaction to having her family home surrounded by a gathering of hooded gentlemen waving banners saying ‘Join City and Die’ — was not mentioned. Any admission that top athletes might be moved by such girly things would clearly have been an act against masculinity.

Having so often been poo-poo’d — nay ostracised — by my male friends when I’ve tentatively suggested the possibility of familial influence when discussing confounding career moves by sportsmen, I’ve often wondered about this blindspot, even among men who happily admit that their own wife wears the trousers.

Perhaps it’s because talking about sport is often a men-only activity and jealously guarded by many chaps as such.

Sport is where the conversation is most likely to go if there are no women in the vicinity, classic lads’ night out banter territory.

And so a strange context has developed around the topic, one in which any acknowledgment of women as significant influences on their menfolk is met with a contemptuous red card.

If football is the conversation starter which unites swathes of men in a festival of shared interest and animated opinion swapping, I suppose it makes sense that they regard it as a key into a fantasy world in which manly issues like club loyalty, bank balances, ambition and brotherhood are the only considerations.

So perhaps we women should let them continue with their delusions, and just keep schtum.

As Coleen loyally has done this week, in return for a rather lovely looking holiday in Dubai.

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