When Wayne Rooney went to the ground clutching his Laser III-clad foot; a nation held it’s breath.
You could almost hear the murmurs around the Allianz Arena from the travelling Manchester United fans “He’s holding his foot!”, “Wonder what he’s done?” “It’ll be his metatarsal again – it’s World Cup year!”
And the commentators didn’t help either – “Whilst Bayern’s comeback has echoes of 11 years ago – England fans are having another kind of Deja vu altogether as Wayne Rooney limps off the pitch with a little over 2 months to the start of the World Cup – reminiscent of the injury that saw him race for fitness ahead of the 2006 World Cup” Thankfully, it wasn’t the dreaded break – but instead a nasty ankle injury.
But as a footballing nation, England has become paralysed with fear when it comes to the metatarsal. You see, there’s something of a curse when it comes to those pesky little bones in English player’s feet in World Cup years.
Wayne Rooneyhas had it especially bad – after pulling out part way through England’s game with Portugal in Euro 2004 with a metatarsal injury, he again suffered the same problem when Paulo Ferreira won the ball with a hard challenge in a match with Chelsea in April 2006, leaving Rooney with less than 2 months to get fit from an injury that had previously kept him sidelined for 14 weeks.
Though Rooney’s not the original player to bring the word metatarsal out of the medical journal and into the public conscious – that’s just one of many honours held by David Beckham.
As in 2002 on the 10th April, Beckham was injured during a Champions League match against Deportivo La Coruna, breaking the second metatarsal bone in his left foot. Beckham raced to get fit, with 6 weeks to get fit he made it to the World Cup in Japan & Korea, though later admitting he wasn’t at full fitness throughout the tournament.
And no injury-based article would be complete without including Michael Owen!
On 31 December 2005, Owen broke his 5th metatarsal match against Tottenham Hotspur.' He was expected to be out of action until late March,' but the healing process did not go as hoped and on 24 March he underwent a second, minor, operation.
His return to action finally came against Birmingham City in 29 April. After the match Owen stated that he was “not 100% happy” with his foot.' He underwent a further x-ray and made himself unavailable for Newcastle’s final game of the season.
After delaying his preparations for the World Cup, he sustained a damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee,' in the first minute of the group match against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup.
Arguably the most tragic of these injuries, though, was to Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy. Capped 9 times (scoring once) in the run up to the 2002 tournament.
The then-Liverpool player was forced to withdraw from the squad after suffering a second metatarsal break in the on-site training facilities in Jeju, South Korea.
The 2002 World Cup was to be his only chance at World Cup glory, and he’s been overlooked for selection ever since.
Another notorious Metatarsal break from the England Camp is Steven Gerrard. In 2004 Gerrard pulled up with a foot injury whilst playing against Manchester United in September.
The Liverpool skipper was only suggested to be out for 6 weeks, but Gerrard’s injury only served to underline the unpredictability of a metatarsal break.
Liverpool were without Gerrard for a full 10 weeks, keeping him off the pitch until November.