Wayne Rooney has revealed how Everton FC legend Colin Harvey talked him out of quitting the game before his career had even begun.
Rooney will become England’s ninth centurion tomorrow when he leads the team out against Slovenia in their Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley – and the youngest Englishman to reach 100 caps.
But had it not been for a pep talk from his old Everton youth team coach, Rooney could have been working on a building site this weekend, or training in a gym for a boxing match.
In his role as first-team coach, Harvey played a big part in Everton’s success during the 1980s, and he then went on to manage the Toffees for three years.
But perhaps his biggest contribution to the club came in 1999, when he beckoned a 14-year-old Rooney over for a heart-to-heart.
After three years of youth team football, Rooney’s love of the game had diminished.
He did not like being given tactical instructions – he was a street footballer being tamed, in his eyes.
Rooney was ready to quit the game but Harvey talked him round.
“I had stopped enjoying football,” Rooney said.
“I was being told to do different things that I didn’t want to do and it felt like it was too much.
“It was down to Colin Harvey that I carried on. He sat me down and made me fall back in love with football.
“He said he hadn’t seen a player with the talent that I had, so I would be making a mistake if I quit.
“Once he said that, I thought: ‘He used to be Everton manager, so he knows the game.’”
Everton footballers Colin Harvey (left) and Howard Kendall sign autographs for young fans on April 24, 1968
It was a pep talk that earned Everton £30million five years later and prevented England from losing one of their greatest ever players.
Rooney stopped boxing.
“I would have tried it as a career,” he says of his former hobby. Building or landscaping were other potential career routes at the time.
Five years later, the striker became a phenomenon.
After impressing on his England debut in the otherwise drab 3-1 defeat to Australia, Sven-Goran Eriksson fast-tracked Rooney into his European Championship squad at the tender age of 18.
Flashback. Everton’s Wayne Rooney is awarded the Liverpool Echo Sports Personality of the Year award back in Feb 2004 pictured with his fiancée Coleen McLoughlin.
Rooney took Euro 2004 by storm, earning a place in the team of the tournament after scoring four goals.
When asked during a briefing with the written media at St George’s Park on Tuesday what had been his international career highlight, Rooney picked Euro 2004.
That sums everything up about Rooney’s international career and England’s fortunes over the last decade – so much promise, but so little achievement, sadly.
Rooney will put the commemorative golden cap in a room where he keeps all his memorabilia at his Cheshire mansion.
The two-floor room, about 60 feet long, is packed with medals, none of them from England duty.
Since the quarter-final defeat in Euro 2004, there have been a fair few lows.
The famous sending off in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal – “the lowest point,” he admits – was followed by failure to fire England to Euro 2008.
In the 2010 World Cup, he raged at England fans following the 0-0 draw against Algeria and he missed the first two matches of Euro 2012 after being sent off for a silly kick at Montenegro’s Miodrag Dzudovic.
It was only earlier this year that he recorded his first World Cup goal, although his efforts were in vain as England crashed out at the group stages.
In pictures: Liverpool, Everton and Merseyside players in training with England
Rooney stands on the verge of making history.
He is about to earn his 100th cap and few would back against him becoming the country’s all-time top appearance maker and goal scorer.
But it is clear to see he feels his ambitions with England are unfulfilled.
“It will be a special moment for me when I get my 100th cap,” Rooney said.
“It’s a great honour and I’m extremely proud.
“But I don’t just want to be remembered as one of the players who gets 100 caps.
“I want to be successful and we haven’t been successful. That’s how teams and players get rated.
“I would say it hasn’t always been great but it has always been magical playing for England.”
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