Reactions to Wayne Rooney's red card should be tempered
One of Wayne Rooney's greatest assets is his passion for football. He loves to play and hates to lose, even in training. When training is coming to an end at Manchester United he will often put the goalkeeper gloves on and get another game going until he's told to stop.
That passion has made him the player that he is, the best in England by far, the only world-class player his country has.
Take the passion out of Rooney's game and you take away one of his greatest attributes. He showed his passion last week for England in Montenegro. It earned him a sending off because he was frustrated that England had gone from cruising at 2-0 to drawing 2-2. His frustration at the situation got him a red card.
Rooney did not set out that night to be sent off, but players receive red cards in football - almost always in the heat of the moment -and I wish more people could handle that very simple fact.
Footballers have always been sent off and always will. Rooney will see red again and he will see red cards again because he's a very passionate player. I'd rather that than someone who was prepared to go through the motions and not care whether he wins or loses.
Rooney has matured greatly but he pushes himself to the absolute limit every week. Watch what he does if United are losing - he chases back into his own half to try to win the ball, chases back into the territory of defenders because he's so desperate to win.
Rooney was slaughtered for getting sent off and there was a complete - but sadly typical - overreaction in England that he was to blame for everything from the poor economy to England's chances in Euro 2012.
Rooney is important, but he is only one player and the implication that England are a one-man team is wrong.
Rooney will be more frustrated than anyone that he was sent off. Players hate letting their teammates down for one and seeing them reduced to 10 men, but it's part of football.
It's often the consequence of the sending off which causes bigger news than the card itself. The story with Rooney is that he will now miss all of England's Euro 2012 group matches in June, after he was handed a ban by Uefa last night.
People said that with England safely through to the finals, he shouldn't have put himself in that position but players don't work like that - they don't just slip into second gear and relax (although you might have thought that the rest of the England team did in Montenegro).
Some of the greatest players in football have seen more than their fair share of red cards. Diego Maradona was hardly the quiet type, was he? And while Zinedine Zidane was, he was could explode like he did in the 2006 World Cup final.
Everyone was quick to judge him - just as they are when any player is sent off - but they don't often know the facts of what was said. Nobody knows what was said to Zidane by the Italian defender, Marco Materazzi, before he reacted by butting him in the chest, so it's difficult to judge him.
There's another thing with that Zidane sending off. I loved it. Loved watching the slow-motion replays, the images and the drama which followed. It was pure theatre, the best player in the world - and I know that because I played against him several times - losing it in the World Cup final, his last ever game.
That is part of the reason football can be so engrossing to watch.
I was sent off a few times in my career. I wasn't a dirty player, nor a temperamental one, but I'm only human and snapped two or three times.
One of the red cards was at Liverpool while playing for United in 1999. I had scored and United were on their way to a 3-2 victory when I finally lost it and lashed out at Rigobert Song, who had spent the game pulling and tugging at my shirt. He fouled me again and I reacted by kicking him. I got a second yellow, which meant a red. The Liverpool fans abused me as I left the field, which you would expect as a United player at Anfield.
My teammates had to defend their 3-2 lead for the last 18 minutes and I'm glad they did because I would have been in for the biggest dressing down if I'd cost the team points.
United held on and Sir Alex Ferguson didn't even mention the red card to me after the game. He was delighted to have won at Anfield, just as he will be if United win tomorrow.
Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten
Published: October 14, 2011 04:00 AM