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The tempestuous striker boiled over once again in Montenegro and now faces being ruled out of the early stages of next summer's finals - it is another cloud in a stormy career

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By Jonathan Birchall

As England limply marched on toward Poland and Ukraine with a 2-2 draw against Montenegro, the ever-compelling one-man soap opera that is Wayne Rooney ran troublingly parallel.

The grim predictability of the Three Lions’ second-half collapse, after having looked so comfortable at 2-0 just before half-time, was mirrored by the striker’s proclivity to petulance, and rather than help turn the screw in Podgorica, one went loose for the Manchester United man.

Having lost out to Miodrag Dzudovic in the centre of the park with just over a quarter of an hour remaining, Rooney kicked out at the defender’s legs in an act of mindless immaturity. Referee Wolfgang Stark rightly produced the red card to send the 25-year-old off and make him only the second England player of the 900 to have been capped to have been dismissed twice.

You can’t help but think that it was an act of frustration borne out of more than a poor second-half showing, with the striker’s father and uncle having both been arrested on Thursday for their alleged involvement in a betting scandal, but whether that begins to explain such recklessness is as irrelevant as it is conjecture.

ROONEY'S RED MIST

 FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY
73' RED CARD! Wayne Rooney kicks out wildly after losing out in a physical battle and is sent for an early bath by the referee. Absolute insanity from the forward in a crucial tie here. He will now miss part of the Euro 2012 tournament if England manage to hold on
 PLAYER RATING
4.5 Always looked to pull the strings for England, dropping deep more often than not. A remarkable moment of stupidity then saw the Manchester United talisman sent off for kicking out at Dzudovic and he will now miss the start of next year’s finals

The automatic one-match ban that comes with a red card is not applicable to England’s friendly fixture with Spain in November, meaning that Rooney will at the very least miss the Three Lions’ opening Euro 2012 clash in Poland or Ukraine and, for the third time in his career, the striker will enter a major tournament with a cloud hanging over his head.

With concerns over a broken metatarsal suffered against Chelsea having plagued the United forward’s build-up to the 2006 World Cup, that too was an episode of his own personal drama that was to end in post-red-mist shame. Having stamped on Ricardo Carvalho’s groin before England crashed out to Portugal on penalties in Gelsenkirchen, the then-20-year-old’s tender age somewhat admonished his actions, but five years older and supposedly wiser, such excuses no longer stand up to scrutiny. 

Four years on in South Africa, speculation over Rooney’s private life dominated the tabloids’ discourse, as he, like the rest of his team-mates, completely underperformed before being dumped out in humiliating fashion to Germany in Bloemfontein. Now, once more, the forward will travel with not only the expectant weight of a nation on his shoulders, but the millstone of his own stupidity hanging loosely around his neck.

There may, however, be a slight silver lining in the cloud that rained all over England’s qualification parade. Andrei Arshavin, then of Zenit St Petersburg, missed the first two fixtures of Russia’s Euro 2008 campaign and went on to set the tournament alight in the latter stages.

Rooney has the quality to do the same, but such a limp performance from Capello’s men on Friday evening raises questions over whether they would be able to cope without him -  England were on top in the game when Rooney was pulling the strings. 

Old habits die hard and after another indiscretion from the national team's most important player, there must surely be genuine fears that the former Everton man’s tendency to cause a storm will never stop being a thorn in his or England’s side.

It may be time for Capello to resign himself to the fact that his most explosive player also has the shortest fuse.

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