It is ten years since a young kid from the streets of Croxteth broke into the Everton first team to take the world of football by storm. Wazza spoke exclusively to Open about his highlights of a decade of football at the very top.
It was August 17 2002 and Wayne Rooney got his first taste of Premiership football in a 2-2 draw against Spurs.
Evertonians had long been aware of the rising star during his rapid progression through the Everton youth system. Crowds were flocking to youth games just to see the 16 year-old Rooney play, culminating in a goal against Aston Villa in the youth cup final which he celebrated by revealing a message underneath his jersey ‘once a blue, always a blue.’
Five days before his 17th birthday, and Rooney announced his arrival to the world in unforgettable fashion. One of the strongest Premiership sides of all time, the 2001/02 Arsenal side including Seaman, Campbell, Cole, Vieira and Henry; were on a record 30 match unbeaten run until Rooney came off the Goodison Park bench, and with a minute to go unleashed a 30 yard dipping strike that crashed the underside of the bar beating Seaman and ending Arsenal’s record run.
Rooney became the youngest ever England international in February 2003 and then the youngest-ever player to score for the three lions with a goal against Macedonia at the age of 17 years and 317 days. Following an explosive impact at Euro 2004 and with Everton struggling financially, a £25m move to Manchester United followed.
Since his switch to United, Rooney has made 366 appearances scoring a total of 182 goals and collecting four Premier League winners medals, two league cups, and a Champions League medal in the process.
The 2011/2012 season was Rooney’s most prolific season so far, scoring 35 goals in 44 appearances.
Open caught up with Wayne to discuss fatherhood, music tastes, and look at some of the highlights of 10 years playing Premiership football.
OPEN: It’s now 10 years since you made your professional debut for Everton. What was your favourite memory from your time at Everton?
WR: My favourite memory from Everton has to be my goal against Arsenal.
OPEN: If you hadn’t become a football player, what might you have become?
WR: I honestly don’t know. I have been playing football since I can remember and it is all that I ever wanted to do.
OPEN: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
WR: It has to be winning my first Premier League. It is something I have dreamt of since I was a kid and it was a great feeling.
OPEN: What is your favourite goal you have scored and why?
WR: My favourite goal is my overhead kick against Manchester City in the Manchester derby. It is one of them goals you dream about as a kid and to do it in a game as big as that was unbelievable.
OPEN: Who is the best player you have played with and why?
WR: Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes. Ronaldo’s skill is unbelievable and Paul Scholes has the ability to control a whole game, his passing is the best I’ve seen.
OPEN: You recently tweeted that Lionel Messi is the ‘best ever’. What is it that makes him the best ever for you?
WR: He has everything in his locker and his goal scoring record speaks for itself. One of the things I like most about Lionel Messi is the fact he’s a great team player. He gets many assists and also tracks back and helps his teammates, he has great determination. When he gets fouled he gets straight back up, this is another thing I like about him.
OPEN: Who do you rate as the best up and coming prospect in English football, and why?
WR: There are lots of exciting young talents at the moment in English football. One player that I get to see play every day in training is Danny Welbeck. He is already a great player and keeps improving every day. I’m sure he will go on to do brilliant for both England and Manchester United.
OPEN: Tell us about your personal match preparation. Do you have any pre-match rituals?
WR: I don’t have any pre-match rituals and I’m not superstitious. I usually just listen to some music and get myself psyched up for the game.
OPEN: Did you play music by The Hummingbirds in the Manchester United changing room? How did it go down?
WR: Yes I did and they all seemed to like it!
OPEN: What is one of your favourite songs at the moment?
WR: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye.
OPEN: If you could choose your perfect music festival line up, what would your top 5 acts be?
OPEN: What is your favourite place in the world?
WR: One of my favourite places to go on holiday is Barbados, it is very laid back and all the people are really nice.
OPEN: Name five of your essential items that you would be lost without.
OPEN: Who is the person that has most influenced you, and why?
WR: I would have to say my youth team coach at Everton Colin Harvey. He was a great coach and he gave me great advice that I feel has had a positive impact on my football.
OPEN: What has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
WR: Having my son has definitely been the biggest inspiration. I always want to do well and succeed but Kai gives me that extra drive.
OPEN: What has it been like adjusting to fatherhood and how has it changed you?
WR: Having Kai has been the best thing that has happened to me. It is a lot of hard work and there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make but they are all worth it!