Rooney back where he belongs
There are many, many layers to Wayne Rooney’s return to his boyhood club.
What legacy does he leave at Manchester United? Despite leading the club’s goalscoring charts, many fans still see Rooney as unfulfilled potential. That youngster who took Euro 2004 by storm became a superb player – but the very best?
Then, there is the issue of his decline. What has happened to England’s leading light, and why was he so completely ineffective last season? A victim of his own versatility?
And, a thought that Everton fans never thought would cross their minds – is Manchester United’s club captain even good enough to get in the team at Goodison Park? The source of Farhad Moshiri’s millions can be questioned, but his willingness to spend cannot. Everton’s transfer dealings this season have certainly caught many by surprise. Is a player past his best what Everton need right now?
Forget all that. Football is all about a sense of tribalism, a belonging. Rooney may not be the player he once was, may have left for the riches of the most decorated club in England, but now he is home, and any football romantic with an ounce of sentiment cannot help but feel all warm inside as a result.
“It feels great,” Rooney said upon re-signing. “To be honest, I’ve kept it quiet for the last 13 years but I’ve actually been wearing Everton pyjamas at home with my kids. I had to keep that a bit quiet!
“Throughout the summer I’ve been working out where I was going to go. I spoke to my agent and said: ‘Listen, you need to speak to Everton, see if it can happen’. He said it could so I told him to speak to the Club and get it done as quickly as possible. It’s happened, I’m delighted and I’m ready to go.”
China or elsewhere never even crossed Rooney’s mind
To Rooney, there was only one option this summer. The riches of China or the Middle East were in the offing. He could have been the marquee player in most leagues around the world, and been paid handsomely for such a privilege.
Returning to Everton, in this state of squad overhaul will be no easy ride. Boss Ronald Koeman doesn’t let reputations cloud his judgement, just look at how he has dealt with Ross Barkley’s indifferent form.
Rooney didn’t get the big send off, isn’t revered around the country like Paul Scholes, but on the blue half of Merseyside, he amongst his own, and his fellow Evertonians couldn’t be happier.
“To be honest, the last few years the fans have been pushing me to come back,” Rooney continued. “After Man United games I’d always come back to Liverpool at the weekend with the kids to see their grandparents and loads of people would always be asking me ‘Are you coming back?’ ‘When are you coming back?’
“It’s the right time for me but it’s also the right time for the football club.”
Attitudes have changed at Goodison
Whenever Rooney turned out in a United shirt at Goodison, it wasn’t pretty. There was badge kissing, taunts from the terraces of the cruelest nature, but things changed when Rooney turned out in blue for Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial.
Coming off the bench, Goodison rose as one to salute their former hero. From then on, a permanent return simply had to happen.
Rooney is no ordinary footballing idol to Everton fans. When the burly 16-year-old was running defences ragged at will all those years ago, he didn’t just win a phalanx of admirers, he made Evertonians dream again.
In a class obsessed country, this normal teenager went home from playing against the Arsenals of this world and kicked a ball against a curb in the street with his friends. A working class hero was born.
Times have changed, and various misdemeanours have tarnished this idyllic image of Rooney, but, this return to where it all began, will get a new generation of Evertonians feeling as good about their club as their parents’ did 15 years ago. It is what football is all about.