WHEN NOBODY COMPARED TO WAYNE ROONEY – MUNDIAL
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WHEN NOBODY COMPARED TO WAYNE ROONEY

Words: PJ Smith

I strolled down to the local Wetherspoons for the France game. They’d finally caved on their ‘no telly’ rule, and it was rammed. Quid a bottle. Put your money away, lads; I’ll get these. He was still making it look easy. Like there wasn’t a single ounce of pressure on his shoulders. There probably wasn’t. 1–0 to England. A Frank Lampard header. Didn’t like him. One of the reasons I couldn’t be arsed with the national side. How could I support a team full of players I couldn’t stand?

The eyes of the whole world were on Our Wayne now. They were watching him float past Zidane, fronting Vieira, skinning Silvestre and nearly taking Thuram’s head off with his elbow. This wasn’t a violent act; it was just a gentle introduction after Thuram had previously played down the teenager's chances of making a big impact at the tournament.

“Hi Lilian, I am Wayne Rooney. I do not care who you are. You need to care about who I am.”

Everton, aren’t we?

A mass brawl broke out in Wetherspoons. Genuinely about a spilt pint. It was actually two separate scraps that merged into one big one. It was great. I got off, and by the time I got home, England were 2–1 down. I didn’t give a fuck really. Rooney had done us proud. This lad was an Evertonian. He played for us. We also had a young manager who seemed to know how to handle him. Things were finally on the up for us. I looked forward to the next England game, which was to be against Switzerland. This was a first for me.

I ‘watched’ it at my cousin’s. Don’t remember a thing; I’d been the Aldi and purchased several—too many for one person—big bottles of strong German ale. My mind was still at the bar in The Picket in 1995.

“What if there isn’t enough? What am I going to do when this runs out? Who can I borrow money off? He won’t leave, will he?”I had to rewatch the highlights of this one when I was able to view the screen through both eyes. That header from Michael Owen’s cross made him the youngest scorer in the history of The European Championships. I wondered how many other records he would break over the course of his career. His second was technically an own goal. Who was going to attempt to take that off him, though? It was a proper Andrei Kanchelskis Everton-era strike. Just cut in and blast it near post so the keeper won’t have a say in it, and even if he does, it’ll probably just go in off him. Wayne Rooney was in full flow. An American-Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes ‘flow’ as “a state in which people are so immersed in an activity or task that nothing else seems to matter”. The man Rio Ferdinand christened Wazza a therapeutic genius? In his own way, yes. He was ours.

Croatia next. Dark horses. Would they try and man-mark him? Kick him? They better fuckin’ not. I watched this one in The County pub. Seem to remember it being on around teatime. This was my first ever local. We’d be there every Friday in the late 90s before piling into a house off Stuart Rd, where a girl we knew would be babysitting. Crash FM on the radio. The Divine Comedy’s ‘National Express’ forever linked to a girl who later ‘became a wag’ saying, “Cunt should’ve just got the train then”.

Rooney again playing like me in The Pitz circa 93. The Pitz was and still is a bunch of 5-a-side pitches in Kirkdale at the foot of Everton Valley. I was a regular for years. Playing shooties with my kid brother. Trying not to get in fights with lads from Anfield, Scotland Road or Holy Cross. My Sunday league team, The Tramways, trained there every Friday between 17:00 and 18:00. I never missed a week for years. You could use a pitch for free if it wasn’t booked. Pitch 7 was hardly ever booked. Our floodlit world. North Liverpool’s greatest players showcased their talents there on a daily basis. I don’t doubt that Wayne himself legged it round those pitches a few times. The Croats had been given The Pitz treatment, and Kopites were swarming around the pool table asking how we were going to keep him. Shut up. Would England have won the Euros if he hadn’t have got injured? Probably. I was relieved when he got injured. Not because he was injured, more the fact that the focus would be off him. He could just rest, get fit and report back to training for us soon. Except he didn’t report back. Maybe he just got an extended break? He still didn’t report back, though. The season had started. What was going on? Perhaps the wall of silence from the club regarding a potential transfer was just them ‘managing’ the situation. They probably just didn’t want to give any credence to these ridiculous rumours.

Then it happened. 
Who knows what it was that actually happened?

The above is an excerpt from our Issue 24 cover story 'Our Wayne' by Roy, who is definitely not a poet or a DJ, but excels at both. The full piece is incredible, and you should pay some money to read the full thing by clicking hereAnd if you're not ready to fork out a bit of cash yet, sign up to our free weekly newsletter here.


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