Being just 4 years-old when Wayne Rooney made his breakthrough at Everton, it never quite dawned on me how much of an elusive talent the local lad actually was. I simply just saw him as another hero in the famous blue jersey, however, following the respective 15th, 16th & 13th placed finishes in the 3 seasons prior, my Dad made me fully aware of how gifted Wayne was & how rare that is for Everton.
During a trip to the old Bellefield training complex with my Dad, the resonance of the youngster around the club was clear. As his senior team debut was imminent, he was the topic of discussion at the time, & it didn’t take too long before we discovered his squad number would be 18. Within the hour, “Rooney 18” was printed on the back of my shirt, just one of many if you remember the pandemonium.
Goal, after goal, after goal (the one at Elland Road ’02 being my pick of the bunch) Rooney’s astronomical rise was met with many landmarks: the youngest footballer to play for England in 03’, the youngest ever to score for England in 04’ & the youngest ever to score at the Euros in 04’ too. Though the latter 2 have since been broken, all the accolades attributed to a celebrity-like status & consequently, the gut-wrenching record transfer to Manchester United at the end of the August transfer window in ’04, snubbing a £50k contract with the Blues.
At 6 years-old, this was my first experience of your favourite player leaving your club, one that left me dejected & numb to all future departures until Arteta in 2011. I was very much indoctrinated into believing Rooney was a traitor, kissing the United badge at Goodison in 07’ only fuelled my bitterness, on top of seeing him on the cover of what seemed every single FIFA video game I bought throughout my childhood years. It was clear, from on the pitch & from the media, there was a distinctive uniqueness about him. He transcended football.
After years & years of watching him lift trophies & score goals that sometimes defied reason for United (along with the mantle of England’s record goalscorer), the player’s temperament & playing style changed, as did my opinion of him. It was clear from the reception he received at Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial that Goodison Park no longer viewed him as their binary enemy but one of their own, & the nostalgia provoking announcement video upon his return to Everton brought a smile to most, if not all Evertonians.
He was not the explosive, ball-on-a-string type player of yesteryear, more a seasoned veteran that knew the ways of the game & how to pick a pass. Hence why I didn’t really expect much upon his return- it just came across as an elaborate marketing stunt to sell shirts on the global scale.
I was downstairs buying a pint in the Park End concourse when his goal against Stoke went in on his first game back in Blue, & it surprised me just how much of an impact he was to have in the 17/18 season ultimately ending the season as top scorer despite no Lukaku replacement. His goal against Manchester City caused me to almost reevaluate my expectations of him, as his goalscoring capabilities could not be disputed. From the carbon copy of his first Premier League goal against Arsenal in the game that would be Ronald Koeman’s last, to the astounding hattrick against David Moyes’ West Ham (including another goal from inside his own half against the Hammers just like in ’14) Rooney produced nostalgic moments almost at will.
He had become arguably, Everton’s best player around Christmas, scoring & performing with consistency. This evoked my 7 year-old sister to ask for Rooney on the back of an Everton kit for Christmas, just as I had 15 years ago, which was a surreal & proud moment.
His form somewhat declined as the reign of Sam Allardyce went on, as late penalty against Liverpool aside (which was a joyous moment for all that were there- including myself), he was massively burned out by too much game time, which was a concern for all Evertonians upon his return. Causing him to lose the ball often at vital times & quell the pace of the side whenever he received the ball.
His move to D.C United has come at the right time. He does not fit the profile of the new Everton FC Marcel Brands & Marco Silva have on their agenda, & as a player that has been there & done it all, he’ll be a welcomed addition to the MLS adding to their plethora of legends within their ranks.
The name will certainly be remembered- Wayne Rooney.
Max Carlyle (@Max_Carlyle)