Rooney v Charlton – Whose Record Is Better?

Wayne Rooney finally equaled Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record on Saturday with a penalty against San Marino.

Rooney also has an opportunity to shatter the record 49 goal haul tomorrow night against Switzerland. But does his tally really hold up against Charlton’s? We investigate.

Rooney burst onto the international scene at Euro 2004, where he briefly became the youngest player in the tournament’s history. He notched four goals at the finals, and was named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament.

Rooney regards his performances in Portugal as the highlight of his England career, and he soon earned a move to Manchester United. However, he failed to score at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and was banned for the opening two matches of Euro 2012. He did score in England’s third group game, against co-hosts Ukraine, but it was his solitary strike at the tournament.

He scored his first ever World Cup goal in Brazil last year but it wasn’t enough to help his country escape the group stages.

Meanwhile, Charlton only scored one goal at a European Championships, in the 1968 third place play-off. His record at World Cups is much better, nabbing four goals in total, including one against Mexico on their way to World Cup glory in 1966.

Standard of Opposition/Appearances
Incredibly, both players have scored their 49 goals in 106 international appearances. They say there are no easy games in international football, but of course there are as England’s 6-0 win in San Marino can attest.

However, there were plenty of whipping boys in Charlton’s era too, as he nabbed hat-tricks in routs of poor USA, Mexico and Switzerland sides. Indeed, friendlies were a lot more common during Charlton’s career, with less qualification matches than in the modern era.

Charlton scored almost half of his goals in friendlies, whereas Rooney’s figure is closer to 30%. Part of that is down to the increased level of qualifiers, with more countries involved and Rooney has managed to bag 29 goals in qualification. Furthermore, 29 of Rooney’s goals have come against opposition that simply did not exist in Charlton’s day.

Penalties/Goals Per Minutes
Rooney’s goal from the spot on Saturday was his fifth in an England shirt, compared to three for Charlton.

However, Rooney’s goals per minute ratio is better than his predecessor – 165 minutes per goal compared to Sir Bobby’s 192. The latter though was only substituted once in his international career, while Rooney has often been withdrawn while still in search of further goals – the match in San Marino being a case in point.

While the majority of Charlton’s goals came from midfield, Rooney’s have been mainly as a forward. It is incredibly difficult to compare different eras or to speculate how Charlton would have fared in the modern international arena.

It seems Rooney will suffer in any comparison until he emulates Charlton’s crowning achievement. There’s no doubt he’ll shatter Sir Bobby’s record but until he adds a World Cup or European Championship medal it’s doubtful he’ll ever earn the respect that his illustrious predecessor has.