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Once a Blue, Always a Blue
Liverpool Echo
Thursday August 15, 2002

THREE Everton pennants and an Everton car registration plate are on show in the front bedroom window.

And, inside the Croxteth council house, live three Everton-mad boys aged 16, 14 and 11 - together with their Everton-mad parents.

It could be one of any number of Blueblooded families on Merseyside. But this is a very special house. This is the house where Goodison Park wonder kid Wayne Rooney lives.

"Young Wayne" shares it with his proud-as-punch parents, Wayne senior, 39, and Jeanette, 35, together with younger brothers Graham,14 and John, 11.

If you adopted Loyd Grossman's voice and asked a Blue "Who would live in a house like this?" . . . they'd tell you in about three seconds.

All they'd have to do is look at the framed pictures on the wall and the trophies on top of the TV.

And this is before mum and dad dig out more photographs from the bulging Rooney scrapbook.

One framed picture stands out. An 11-year-old Wayne is standing in the Anfield centre circle alongside then Everton captain Dave Watson and former Reds skipper John Barnes - the youngster was the Blues' mascot for the derby which took place on November 20, 1996.

The game ended 1-1 (Robbie Fowler scored for Liverpool and Gary Speed for Everton). Another photo from that night, of a smiling Stan Collymore and unsmiling Wayne Rooney, is kept on the floor behind a chair.

Meanwhile, Duncan Ferguson, a second-half substitute in that derby, is pictured with his arms around Wayne and his brothers at the Blues' Bellefield training ground the following season - it's probably fair to say Big Dunc wouldn't have predicted that he'd be playing alongside young Wayne just a few years later.

As we arrived at the Rooney home, Dad was reading the ECHO - while the ECHO's well-thumbed pre-season special was on the coffee table.

It was the second time ECHO photographer Martin Birchall had met Wayne senior - Martin having taken the first Press picture of young Wayne and his two brothers in March 1998, when all three were at the Everton Academy.

Knowing that Everton, quite rightly, wish to protect Wayne as much as possible, the ECHO first approached manager David Moyes to ask if we could speak to him - "Yes . . . when he's 37," came the reply.

Fair enough. But there is also a story to tell about the people who have helped him get to where he is today - the brink of the big time at sweet 16.

"A wonderful story," as Everton owner and deputy chairman Bill Kenwright told me on the phone on the day we called at the Rooney home (he wanted to berate me for my "snotty" column about the new club song - and then play it to me over the 'phone.

My ears are still stinging - from both Kenwright and the song). Wayne's unassuming mum and dad were kindness itself, as they dismantled various photograph frames for us and recalled facts and figures about their three talented lads.

Graham, a pupil at De La Salle, is now concentrating on his boxing. John, who is about to start at the secondary school, is still at the Everton Academy - a promising midfielder in its under 12s team.

Recalling the ECHO's 1998 photograph, when Wayne was 12, Graham, 10 and John, seven, and his hopes that one or more of them may one day play for the Blues, dad says: "You don't really think it's going to happen at the time."

And about Wayne, he says: "He began to kick a ball as soon as he could walk. And, like me, he has always been an Evertonian."

His first game at Goodison? "I can't remember, but he was probably about six months old!"

Now Wayne senior and the rest of family (Main Stand season ticketholders) are looking forward to watching young Wayne PLAY at Goodison Park - in the Premiership.

Jeanette says: "We're really excited about seeing all the games Wayne plays in - home and away."

Sadly, all requests to see - and print in the ECHO - pictures of Wayne as a toddler kicking a ball were politely declined: "He'd go berserk!" says his mum, who, herself, was too shy to be photographed: "Tell the ECHO readers I was out," she jokes.

But she was more forthcoming when recalling Wayne's exploits on the football field: "They didn't play football at his primary school, Our Lady And St Swithin's, and he played his first proper game when he was seven.

"It was for an under 11s or under 12s team from the Western Approaches pub in Storrington Avenue. Despite only being seven, he came on as a sub and scored!"

And the goals just kept on coming . . .

Jeanette adds: "He also played for the Copplehouse pub team in Fazakerley when he was nine and other teams, including East Villa and Pye FC. He won the Golden Boot for them, after scoring the most goals in the BT Challenge Cup competition.

"He also scored loads of goals in his first year at De La Salle - he won a league and cup double with them - but then stopped to concentrate on playing for the Everton Academy.

"He actually scored 99 goals in one season for the Academy's under 10s. And he broke the goalscoring record for Liverpool Schools' FA under 11s, which he still holds." (Jeanette thinks he scored 80 odd goals, although Wayne's then manager, Tim O'Keeffe, thinks it was 72 from a total of 158. Whatever, he's a record-breaker!)

Wayne's brother, Graham, 14, is equally proud, saying: "I knew Wayne would do it. And I think John could follow in his footsteps, as well."

As for himself, he explains: " Although I'm doing boxing now and don't play for the Everton Academy anymore, I still have a team - Crosby Stuart in the Maghull and District League."

If the Wayne Rooney bandwagon continues to roll, his family could soon be under siege. But the idea of seeking sanctuary in a more anonymous part of Merseyside doesn't seem to have crossed his down-to-earth parents' minds: "I think we'll try and stay here," says Wayne senior.

At home with the Rooneys, things seem pretty ordinary at the moment - but you sense that once Wayne starts scoring goals in the Premiership, things will never be the same again.

© Trinity Mirror Plc 2002