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On Wayne Rooney’s hair and football personalities

Keeping your hair while all around are losing theirs.

Rooney! (From the Gaelic O’Ruanaidh, meaning “descendant of the champion”.) The prodigal son returns. We learned, in his post-match England v Ukraine interview, of the concerns that preoccupy footballers before a big game. Product. It’s hairdresser jargon, product. The generic term for gelatinous crap you put in your (in the case of Rooney, scant, despite a £30,000 procedure last year to thicken) hair.

Rooney, it emerged, had borrowed Andy Carroll’s product – he of the ponytail – and after his tapped-in goal, he celebrated with a hairspray action. On the ITV pundits’ stage in Castle Square, Warsaw (I like to imagine them climbing a spiral staircase to get up there, like princesses), a murderous Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher were unamused. No man worth his salt uses product.

And so, yet again, we find ourselves talking about footballers’ hair. Why do we do it? Sometimes there’s not much else to say about them, footballers often being pathologically uninteresting even when they win. They’re trained out of being interesting, of course, resorting as Steven Gerrard did to that generic, passive-aggressive, us-against-the-world, “no one believed in us, but we just got the job done” spiel. They know they’re dull, too, and so they attempt to express minor traces of personality through hairstyle. Exhibit A: David Beckham.

Rooney has something of the Beckham about him. He won’t model underwear (let’s hope), but both men have a sort of schoolboy enthusiasm for the game. Rooney can be petulant and spoiled, but he does love to play. There’s Rooney, and there’s Benoît “I Play For the Money” Assou-Ekotto. Not that Rooney’s shy of cash, but you’d like to think that if you took it all away, he’d still be kicking a ball about in his garden. 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Europe’s most dangerous leader