Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

I Almost Quit Football ; 100 Caps: The Wayne Rooney Story

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

I Almost Quit Football ; 100 Caps: The Wayne Rooney Story

Article excerpt

WHEN Wayne Rooney steps out at Wembley this evening - his sons Kai and Klay with him as he accepts his 100th England cap from Sir Bobby Charlton - key moments from his career are sure to spring to mind.

The highs and the lows. His first goal for his country against Macedonia 11 years ago: "The keeper should have saved it," he admitted. "I don't know what he was doing."

His outstanding performances at Euro 2004 and his red card two years later at his first World Cup.

At the age of 29 he still wrestles with the demons from that quarter-final defeat to Portugal and the possibility that he will never have a better chance to win a major tournament with England. But in the week that he prepared to become only England's ninth centurion, it is a conversation with former Everton manager Colin Harvey that stands out in his mind.

Rooney, at the age of 14, was ready to walk away from football until the intervention of Harvey - then a youth coach at Goodison Park.

The ultimate street footballer had grown disillusioned with sport as his prodigious talent demanded he take the game more seriously.

"I had enjoyed it all my life until then," said Rooney. "At that age you just want to go and play football. And then you start getting told what different things to do on the pitch - you're learning the tactics of the game.

"I felt that it was too much and, yeah, I remember going home and telling my dad that I didn't want to go anymore. My dad was upset with me over it.

"And then I went into see Colin Harvey and he was great for me. From then, I stopped going to boxing and I just really concentrated 100 per cent on football. Really from then, that's when the progression was rapid for me. "He just said he had seen players throughout his career and that he hadn't seen any player with the talent that I had, so I would be making a mistake. He said, 'If you keep working hard, then you will be in the first team quicker than you think'.

"I thought, 'He used to be Everton manager, so he knows the game'.

"Thankfully I listened to him."

Rooney picks landscape gardening or building as the alternative paths he may have taken if not for Harvey's words.

Boxing perhaps? "I would have tried, yes, but boxing is so difficult to do well in, so I wouldn't have pinned anything on that," he said.

Peter Shilton's England record of 125 caps is a realistic target for Rooney, who is adamant he will continue playing for his country until the decision is taken out of his hands.

He is just six goals short of Charlton's all-time record 49 and will aim to edge ever closer to that total against Slovenia this evening and Scotland on Tuesday.

But it is team success he craves most. Five Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups with United represent a marked imbalance between his careers for club and country. …

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