The coach of Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, had previously said that Ronaldo’s 42 goals in one season would be extremely difficult to better. He is now having second thoughts as one of his top strikers, Rooney, has already hit the back of the nets on 30 occasions this season and, with 13 games to go, it seems highly possible he will better Ronaldo’s performance.
In the 2006 World Cup against T&T, Rooney was certainly not at his best, having just returned from a serious injury, but he definitely made a difference to the England attack by making diagonal runs which kept the T&T defence very busy.
He is the ideal striker. He not only looks for the cross ball from the sides of the field but is prepared to fall back in midfield and make quick passes to his teammates while moving into goal-scoring positions. If he remains fit, he would certainly be an asset to England in the upcoming World Cup. England is grouped with the US, Algeria and Slovenia, and I expect to see a fit Rooney figuring prominently.
As I sit to write this article, it is with a deep feeling of sadness as only on Monday I learned that two stalwarts of my old club had died. One was a supporter, Peter Budd, and the other was probably one of the best footballers this country has ever seen, Mathew Mark Nunes.
Those who saw Mathew play would easily have believed that his middle initial “M” stood for “Magician”. When I joined Maple as a youngster in 1957, Mathew had already made his name for Maple and Trinidad. He was a member of a victorious Maple team of the early ‘50s, under my brother Allan’s captaincy, and was also a member of the T&T football team that toured England in 1953.
Mathew was one of two T&T players to have played professionally in England, the other being Shay Seymour of Colts, a prolific goal scorer. After a couple seasons in England, Mathew returned to Trinidad and I happened to have the good fortune of playing under him when he was captain of Maple in 1959 – and then of being his captain in the early ‘60s.
There were times while playing behind Mathew that his dribbling skills would so captivate me that I would forget that I too was playing a football match. He mesmerised defenders using the inside and outside of his feet, depending on which side defenders tried to tackle, and then he would lay off passes to other forwards, who on most occasions were not prepared for the ball. I could recall quite a few games where he took on defenders single-handedly when he was tired of providing goal scoring opportunities to teammates who did not make use of those opportunities.
I remember a particular league game in 1959 against Providence in front of the Grand Stand in which Providence was leading Maple by two goals to one and it was getting late in the game, probably just about ten minutes left to play. When Mathew realised that his several goal-scoring passes had been wasted by the other forwards, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He collected the ball just outside the opponents’ half of the field. He took on their half-back Parris first, left him on his back; Toosie Gittens was next, he too went sliding past; and then came Jazzy Pantin, he was left kicking wind. The last man defending was Arthur Belgrave, who decided he would not go down easily and his tackle made contact with Mathew’s shin, but Mathew was able to regain his balance in time to push the ball past the Providence goal-keeper for our equaliser. It was a masterful display of dribbling skills.
There were numerous other occasions when Mathew left both teammates and opponents standing in their boots and wondering. Mathew was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame a few years ago but was not able to receive the award himself as he had migrated to the US and was ill at the time.
All who had the pleasure of playing with him, as well as those who saw him play, would always remember the skill of this talented footballer, who also happened to be a good cricketer.
To his family and close friends, on behalf of his former teammates I wish to offer our heartfelt condolences.
May his soul rest in peace. Condolences as well to the family of Peter Budd.