Hatters midfielder Luke Rooney explains he wants to fall back in love with football
New arrival Luke Rooney has vowed to rediscover his love for the game with the Town after joining the Hatters until the end of the season.
Some of the midfielder’s first words were that he had “fallen out of love for the game.” The attacker has joined the Hatters until the end of the season on the back of a spell at Ryman League side Maidstone United, in what was a building block to getting his career back on track.
In a career which took a turn for the worst when he left Swindon, Rooney is ready for a fresh start at Kenilworth Road in a bid to re-establish his love of playing football.
It all started off at Gillingham when Rooney broke through the ranks at the Gills academy at the age of 16. Two years later, he forced his way into the first team side, scoring a goal on his league debut in a 3-0 win over Exeter.
The 23-year-old had his first taste of scoring a professional goal and described the feeling of what it was like to score on his Football League debut with the Gills.
“That’s all you really dream about when you’re growing up. To make an impact and score is just unbelievable, I couldn’t believe it. I was waiting for the linesman to stick his flag up or something like that,” said Rooney.
He would go on to score a total of six goals in 57 appearances with the Gills before receiving interest from a number of clubs in the 2012 January window, including Swindon, who he then went on to sign for.
His first appearance for the Robins came against Macclesfield Town in League 2. He would eventually line-up in this game with current Town players Paul Benson and Jonathan Smith after making an appearance from the bench. Ironically it was Rooney’s cross which found Benson’s head in the only goal of the game.
Everything was looking pretty for the winger at the County Ground as he helped the Robins lift the League 2 title during the 2011/12 season. However, the following season Rooney fell out of contention and from Paolo Di Canio’s plans.
He started the 2012/13 League 1 season on the bench for the Robins and continued to remain there for the opening games of the new campaign, starting his first game against Preston in early September; this proved to be the only game he would start that season. With Swindon 3-0 down at half-time, Di Canio decided to take his frustration out on the winger and substituted Rooney at the interval.
This was the start of Rooney’s loss of love for the game. From this point, the London-born winger was made a part of Di Canio’s “bomb-squad” – one of the players out of contention with the Robins manager. By the end of the month Rooney was allowed to leave and join Burton Albion on a month long deal - when that expired he then joined Rotherham for a further two months.
With nothing failing to materialise from the loan deals, it was confirmed that Di-Canio wanted Rooney off the books – but when a move failed to materialise, the youngster found himself out of contention again, training with the youth team and not even selected as a substitute when the Robins couldn’t fill the bench for four consecutive games.
Di Canio then resigned from his post at Swindon, meaning that Rooney was given a stint back in the first team again. He made his first appearance for the Robins in almost six months against Bury as a substitute. New manager Kevin McDonald took charge at the club and Rooney was on the fringe of the first team before deciding to move on in the summer to Crawley Town.
Again it didn’t work out for the 23-year-old and he then moved on to Maidstone Town to gain some playing time in an attempt to get his career back on track. The attacker spoke of his reasons for moving to Maidstone following his arrival at Kenilworth Road.
“It didn’t work out at Crawley,” says Rooney. “I didn’t get that much of a chance as I wasn’t starting many games. That was disappointing for me and it made me feel a bit bitter. That’s been and gone now and I am looking towards the future.
“I moved to Maidstone to get some games in, I fell out of love with the game a bit and didn’t have the appetite to train and get myself fit. I went down the route of going somewhere I could play games to get fit and that’s why I chose Maidstone,” Rooney said.
It has been a tough year for Rooney and after a stint at Maidstone he is ready to push on and help the Town gain promotion. Rooney was used as a substitute in the Town’s 3-0 victory over Chester and admitted that he would love to be a part of the Hatters plans during this remainder of this season and beyond.
“I think it’s something that the manager would be looking to do long term. It is definitely something that I would like to do long term,” admitted Rooney. “It could be sorted next week, next month or at the end of the season.”
With Rooney being thrown out in the cold in previous years by other managers, the Town’s boss seen an opportunity to bring the 23-year-old back into the game and help him find his best form, and more importantly his love for the game.
The Town boss knows Rooney well from his time at Swindon, having kept an eye on him when current town players Benson and Smith featured for the Robins in previous seasons, and knows that the move is a step in the right direction for the Town’s number 15.
“Rooney knows me and I know him and his family well. I think that I can put my arm around him and start to get the best out of him,” said John Still.
“He fell out of love for football and became a bit disillusioned. I have always kept my eye on him and watched him at Maidstone. We have brought him in until the end of the season and we’ll go from there.”