“In ‘Coke Zero’ Presents: Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker’, “Britain’s best footballer takes to the nation’s streets to unearth the beautiful game’s hidden gems in a new three-part series.” gushes a Sky Sports press release, “Wayne Rooney, who discovered his own potential on the streets of Liverpool, visits housing estates, car parks and cobbled streets to uncover untapped teenage footballing talent.” The Guardian’s Simon Burton is amongst the unfortunate persons to view the premiere and declares, “the last time I saw anything displaying less charisma in a high-profile television programme it was lying in a small dish and being poked with a stick by Gillian McKeith.”
The idea does have a certain romance to it, and it would probably be quite wonderful to watch him exhibiting his sublime skills in an informal and relatively intimate setting with a selection of similarly gifted individuals. The problem here is that someone has brought a camera and a microphone and the poor lad is looking as nervous as a turkey that’s just seen a calendar. When asked to speak he mutters quietly, looking downwards. It’s as if he expects his feet quite literally to do the talking.
In its publicity material Sky merrily trills that this is “a concept created by Coke Zero”. That is, by some advertising executives in London. Thus we have a particularly middle-class definition of “street”. The first programme saw the 24 participants take the Tower Block Challenge, in which they had to control footballs thrown from the upper floors and then volley them crisply into an overflowing skip, before Rooney, who the costume department had rather predictably issued with a hoodie, mumbled at them about how they had “done really well”.
Just like the X Factor, there’s a panel of judges. In the long and glorious history of this wonderful sport there have been many hundreds of footballers who have achieved an element of greatness, and many more who never did but became famous anyway. Presumably they’re all a bit busy at the moment, and joining Rooney is Leeds Carnegie’s Sue Smith and Andy Ansah, the former striker whose record of scoring a goal every five games for Southend somehow saw him become something of a legend in certain parts of Essex. Their principal job appears to be encouraging the show’s star to say something other than “you’ve done really well”.
In truth the only connection between this programme and the street is that that’s where whoever came up with the idea will presumably be living in a few weeks time.
If you suspect Burton is being particularly harsh towards young Wayne, fast forward to about 2:20 in this clip to see Mario Rosenstock’s take.