AFTER five months in the wilderness Luke Rooney is back in the first-team fold at Swindon Town.
The winger, signed from Gillingham last season, had not featured in a matchday squad for the Robins since the trip to Preston on September 3 prior to the return clash with North End at the County Ground on Saturday.
That absence stemmed from a bizarre falling-out with former Town manager Paolo Di Canio, the reasons for which Rooney remains unclear over, and his subsequent ostracising from the senior squad.
The 22-year-old was made to train away from his teammates in the gym and eventually turned to the youth team to get some on-field practice.
Rooney accepts that deciding to go out on loan to Burton and Rotherham, neither or which benefited him in any meaningful way, could have caused Di Canio to turn against him - but he quite rightly feels mistreated in the way he has been left out of first-team affairs in 2013.
Despite his grievances, however, Rooney did not want to criticise his ex-boss and instead suggested that he needs to learn from his experiences as he develops as a player.
“I’m not going to lay blame. I think the fans who half know and can see what’s going on since he’s left. I don’t want to bad mouth him at all,” he said.
“I could come out and say he’s the big bad wolf and he’s treated me unfairly and I probably could get away with it but sometimes you look at yourself and maybe I felt a little bit sorry for myself and I didn’t react right.
“For whatever reason it didn’t work out but I’ll learn. This year’s not been a good year in terms of football but I’ve probably learnt more this year than in a season last year which went really well.
“Since January I came back from my loan at Rotherham, which didn’t work out for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone on loan in the first place. I came back and I was told I was just supposed to train in the gym every day and that was it really.
“I was told I wasn’t with the first team. No reason. I actually asked to go and see the manager to maybe have a chat and maybe not apologise, because I don’t think I’ve got anything to apologise for, but maybe just to explain to him that I think I did make a few rash mistakes.
“The main mistakes I made were being young a bit naive. Rather than after the Preston game feeling a bit beat up and sorry for myself that I was brought off and then not in the squad and thought I should go out on loan, maybe I should have got my head round things a bit more.
“I’ll learn from that now and maybe not make a few naive decisions.”
Rooney regrets his decisions to move to Burton and Rotherham, where he barely featured and struggled to settle away from home.
In fact, his spells at the Pirelli and New York Stadiums reinforced to him how happy he is at Swindon, where he has 16 months remaining on his current contract.
“Once I came back I think I was treated poorly but I think I’d rather look at it from my point of view and say I maybe should have gone about things differently,” he said. “The clubs I went on loan to I didn’t beg to go to, they were just the first things that came up. Maybe I’ve learnt I shouldn’t do that but I wanted to play and get the experience.
“I didn’t go in and bang on the manager’s office and say I wanted to go out on loan it was a case of there being clubs that wanted me on loan and the club accepted.
“Rather than maybe say I wasn’t sure I chose to go. I’m quite a home person and I didn’t enjoy my two loan spells off the pitch. It’s away from home and it’s hard.
“That’s why I’m so comfortable here. I don’t mind being in Swindon because of the club and how everyone is. I love the club, down to the staff who work in the kitchen and the staff who work in the office.”
And had Di Canio remained at the club, does Rooney think he would have ever played for Swindon again?
“I don’t think so for this season. I asked to train to the youth team and asked whether it was worth talking to the manager but it seemed they wanted me out on loan,” he said. “I don’t know the situation but that was it really but then all of a sudden he left and since then Wardy and Tommy have taken over and they’ve said I’m back involved.
“I didn’t even think there was a problem. I get on with everyone else at the club it’s just me and the manager didn’t quite click.”