Striker struggled in the English leagues but is thriving in Scotland
25 June ~ I find it hard to believe that the Adam Rooney I watched, as he laboured through the first half of the 2013-14 season with Oldham Athletic, is the same player who made such a goal scoring impact for Aberdeen last season, finishing up as the SPL’s top marksman.
True enough, the tempo of Oldham’s passing game was on the pedestrian side of glacial, with Rooney appearing in the opposition penalty area at the same time as the ball more out of serendipity than footballing intent. He looked like a player out of place, the harder he tried – often forlornly dropping deep or going wide in search of the ball – the worse it got and the lower his confidence fell.
Rooney began with Stoke in 2006 but failed to hold down a regular starting spot and headed for Inverness in 2008. Three years later, he moved to Birmingham City and then joined Oldham after a permanent move to Swindon, where he had spent a successful year on loan, fell through.
Rooney scored twice against Port Vale towards the end of August but it was mid October before he found the net again in a league match. At the time it was hard to tell whether his poor start was down to a number of his team-mates being relatively new, or that he was still adjusting to the demands of a new manager, or that there were some basic flaws in his game.
In an interview with the Scotsman in December 2014, Rooney put some of his success at Inverness down to the influence of manager Terry Butcher, but, like many other strikers before him, also stressed the importance of regular first-team starts – a contrast with much of his career in England.
And yet, I doubt that any of this really prepared Rooney for the impression he would make at Aberdeen. He joined them in January 2014, scored on his debut, clinched victory with his penalty in the League Cup final shootout and finished with an SPL strike rate better than one in two.
In his first full season he topped the SPL scoring charts, with several of his goals coming at decisive moments in games. There was widespread appreciation of his contribution through player of the year awards at his club and a place on the shortlist for the SPL award, alongside perhaps slightly outlandish comparisons with strikers as diverse as Ian Rush and Ally McCoist.
A call up for Ireland’s recent match against Scotland stalled at the 33-man preliminary squad. Rooney has given credit to the style of play at Pittodrie, with a greater supply of “balls into the box” suiting him more than at Oldham; a point I can well understand.
Some of this story is particular to Rooney, but the challenge of making a sustained impact or developing as a player during a series of loans is common. Just as much, he is likely to have caught the eye of Championship managers and although contracted to Aberdeen until 2018 he may well face some tempting offers. But for me the wise and perhaps brave choice would be to stay where he is and enjoy his football. Brian Simpson