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After Town boss Paolo di Canio initially spoke of his admiration for Rooney in the build up to Swindon's game with Gillingham in November 2011, and then annoyed his Gillingham counterpart Andy Hessenthaler with his suggestion that he was keen on Rooney after the midfielder refused a contract offer from the Gills later in the same month, di Canio finally got his man in the January transfer window - signing the wideman on a two-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee, after an initial bid was rejected. After admitting that the chance to join Swindon was "too good an opportunity to turn down", Rooney made his debut as a second half substitute against Macclesfield four days after signing, and he made an immediate impact - providing the inswinging cross for Paul Benson to head home the winning goal.
Rooney's full debut came in the Town's next game, when di Canio opted to play both attacking wingers for a crucial promotion clash at Southend - with the left-footed Matt Ritchie on the right side, and right-footed Rooney on the left, the plan worked a treat - Swindon putting on one of their best performances of the season to win 4-1, and leapfrog the Shrimpers into the promotion places. The next five games resulted in five more wins - taking Rooney's record to seven out of seven - his first goal for the Town coming in mid-February, when he converted from a central position after Alessandro Cibocchi's free-kick against Crawley had come back off the post.
After Rooney's eighth game ended in a 2-0 reverse at Oxford, bringing a ten match winning streak to an end, the winger was dropped to the bench for the next game against Dagenham - but after being introduced in the second half, he set up two goals and scored one for himself, as the Town cantered to a 4-0 win. He was reinstated to the starting eleven for the next two games, but when less than convincing performances against Cheltenham and Crewe coincided with the signing of Lee Holmes on loan, Rooney shared the spot on the left flank with him for the remainder of the season, with di Canio becoming seemingly more critical of his performances, particularly at Morecambe, when he substituted Rooney in the first half. As Swindon edged closer to promotion, Rooney was one of four players left out of the trip to his former club Gillingham after di Canio found out about a late-night drinking session that he considered to be 'celebrating too early' - and the Town sealed their ascent despite the 3-1 reverse at Priestfield. When the group of players apologised for their antics, they were all considered again for selection - Rooney making a late substitute appearance as Swindon wrapped up the League Two title with a 5-0 victory over Port Vale, and the following weekend's finale at Bradford.
Rooney continued on the bench for the opening games of the new campaign, starting his first match at Preston in early September, with Matt Ritchie ruled out through injury. It proved to be his only start of the season - with the Town 3-0 down at half-time, and Paolo di Canio on the warpath having already substituted goalkeeper Wes Foderingham during the first period - Rooney was also taken off at half-time, the winger taking the decision to join Foderingham in the stands with the travelling away support for the second half, rather than on the bench.
Rooney was dropped from the squad completely for the next game - and though di Canio stated that he still had a future at Swindon, he found himself as a member of the "bomb squad" - one of the players out of favour with the Town manager. By the end of the month, Rooney was allowed to join Burton on a month’s loan, when that expired, he soon moved on again, this time to Rotherham for two months. When the transfer window opened, it was confirmed that di Canio wanted Rooney off the books - but when a move to Cheltenham failed to materialise, Rooney found himself out of the picture again, training with the youth team and not even selected as a substitute when the Town’s injury problems meant that they couldn’t fill the bench for four games in February.
As soon as di Canio resigned from his position, caretaker managers Tommy Miller and Darren Ward allowed him to train with the first team again, and he was selected in the sixteen for their first match in charge - a 1-1 draw with Preston, getting his first game time in a Town shirt for almost six months when he came on against Bury a few days later. After his return, Rooney spoke of the mistakes he had made earlier in the season - saying that he reacted badly to being dropped, and he should have opted to stay at the County Ground rather than go out on loan - but also stating that he felt he was mistreated by his former boss when he returned, without an explanation or the opportunity to explain. With new boss Kevin MacDonald in charge, Rooney stayed on the fringes of the first team for the rest of the season - but over the summer, he looked set to leave the club, with Cheltenham renewing their interest - Plymouth, Crawley and Portsmouth all also reported to be monitoring his situation - eventually it was Crawley who won the race, signing the winger on a six month loan deal. After making just a handful of appearances, the deal was cut short in November - within a month of his return, he agreed a deal to depart the County Ground by mutual consent.
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left-sided attacking midfield
right-sided attacking midfield