Rooney was a child prodigy of English football, bursting onto the scene aged 16 for Everton in 2002 and two years later was the outstanding talent for England at Euro 2004 scoring four goals in their group matches as they progressed to the quarter-finals. However, his and his country’s chances of further progress disappeared when he broke a bone in his foot in the quarter-final and having lost their cutting edge up front England went on to lose on penalties.
‘English through and through’
Much was made of Rooney’s staying up late and getting drunk in the England team hotel the night after the World Cup qualifier with Scotland last November but there have never been any doubts about his passion for his country. This was illustrated early on when aged 16 he refused the Republic of Ireland’s advances as he qualified for them through a grandmother. “When I was at Everton (in 2001) Lee Carsley asked me about it on behalf of Mick McCarthy but it never crossed my mind,” he revealed in 2015. “I have Irish grandparents, so if they wanted to play for Ireland I’m sure they could have, but it was never something I thought about. I am English through and through.”
His powers may be on the wane but everything is relative for a player who has had a habit of breaking records throughout his career. He has the rare distinction of being both his now former club Manchester United and his country’s record goalscorer — indeed he also remains England’s youngest ever goalscorer when he netted aged just 17 years and 317 days old against Macedonia in a Euro 2004 qualifier in September 2003. His breaking of Bobby Charlton’s 44-year-old United goalscoring record last season is one that Alex Ferguson, the man who made him the world’s most expensive teenager when he bought him from Everton to United for around £30 million ($37.5 million, 35 million euros) in 2003, believes will stand for ever. “His achievement is outstanding,” Ferguson told MUTV. “It’s amazing, he’s 200-odd games short of Bobby’s playing record and that makes it even more amazing. I don’t think (anyone can overtake Wayne).”
Rooney may show poor judgement on and off the pitch at times but there is no doubting his heart is in the right place. This he showed through his sizeable donation from his Wayne Rooney Foundation — which seeks to help disadvantaged and vulnerable children — to the victims and their families of the suicide bombing after an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22nd which left 22 dead and scores injured, the great majority of them youngsters. “There are moments in life that instantly affect you and stop you in your tracks,” he said. “Monday night (the night of the attack) was one of those occasions. Like so many others, I have enjoyed great nights at the arena, often with my family. As a father, I am horrified that a night out for so many young people could end so tragically.”
Boom and bust?
The drinking incident at the England camp — when he and other members of the England backroom staff joined a wedding party staying at the hotel — last November which he apologised for was mild in comparison to the revelations over his gambling losses. Rooney has spoken about his fears over his gambling and they appear well-founded as in March in one two hour session he lost £500,000 in a casino. One person it will have not impressed is Coleen, his childhood sweetheart now wife and mother of their three boys, whom he revealed in his autobiography hit the roof when he lost £50,000 in the early years of his career.