Ladies and Gentleman, England’s all-time leading goalscorer, Wayne Rooney.
“Remember the name…” – The fact that any self-respecting football fan in the country could finish Clive Tyldesley’s memorable line in commentary, adding “Wayne Rooney” in emphatic fashion at the end, is testament to Rooney’s impact on English football. Arsenal certainly won’t forget the day that the then 16-year-old, £80-a-week Everton apprentice ended Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten league run with a searing strike that firmly put his name on the map.
Rooney’s knack for breaking records began that day back in 2002, as the Croxteth-born striker replaced Michael Owen as the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer. Although that record was soon to be lost, it seems unlikely that he will lose his new record any time soon, a thought echoed by the men that occupy both third and second on the list of all-time England goalscorers, Gary Lineker and Sir Bobby Charlton.
Coming through the Everton academy, Rooney always looked a prospect. At the age of nine, he’d scored 99 goals in his local junior league, and was subsequently signed up to his boyhood clubs’ academy. By the age of 15, Rooney was playing for the under-19s, and really making an impression upon the Toffees coaches. At both the ages of 14 and 16, the forward was approached by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who was keen to add him to his club’s roster, but both times he was shot down by the young Evertonian who was determined to make an impression on Merseyside.
However, after scoring 17 goals in 70 first-team games at Goodison, at the beginning of the 2004/05 season, Rooney handed in a transfer request and subsequently moved to Manchester United for £25.6 million; a world-record fee for a teenager at the time. The switch was highly contentious amongst Everton fans, who were angered by their star’s decision to abandon them after being offered a much improved wage in his latest contract offer.
Rooney’s transfer was an eyebrow raiser amongst United’s stock, as although he had proved he could cut it in the Premier League, the transfer fee involved was an awful lot for a player still 18 and so inexperienced at the highest level. In his first game however, he scored a Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce before finishing at top scorer for United with 17 goals and was credited with the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
His first trophy came in the following season, as United were triumphant against Wigan Athletic in the 2006 League Cup final, in which he scored twice. In total, he’s won five Premier League titles, two League Cups, three Community Shields, one Club World Cup and the 2007/08 Champions League trophy in his time at Old Trafford.
He has successfully proved himself to the United faithful over the years with his performances on the pitch, but he wasn’t without his controversies. In October 2010, Rooney handed in a transfer request, citing ambition as his reason for wanting to leave. However, he made a dramatic U-turn and signed a new five-year contract soon after. Three years later though he was at it again as he handed in another transfer request, which was rejected by the club. Eleven months later, after bids from Chelsea were knocked back, he penned a record four-year deal worth £300,000 per week.
A few months later, Moyes was sacked and new boss Louis van Gaal named Rooney as the club’s new captain after the departure of Nemanja Vidic.
Since then, and even before he slipped on the armband, Rooney was breaking records in the red shirt. In October 2011, he surpassed Paul Scholes as the highest-scoring Englishman in the Champions League, while In September 2013, he moved ahead of Thierry Henry to become the third-highest goalscorer in the Premier League. The scouser also lies third in the list of all-time Manchester United goalscorers, a mere 16 off Sir Bobby Charlton, whose England goalscoring record he broke earlier this week.
His international career has been just as eventful as his club. Although eligible to represent Ireland, Rooney turned down an approach from them as a 16-year-old, describing himself “English through and through.”
He became England’s then youngest player upon his debut appearance as a 17-year-0ld in 2003, and was made captain after Steven Gerrard’s international retirement in 2014.
Throughout his career, Rooney has been a mainstay in the England team, although his lack of an impact at a major tournament, since scoring four in his first one at Euro 2004, may leave him short of being labelled as England’s greatest.
As we all know, despite those tournament issues, he’s never been short of a goal or two in the white shirt. His penalty against San Marino was followed by another against Switzerland three days later to break Sir Bobby’s record that’s stood for 45 years.
With that, Rooney is certainly the finest English player of his generation, someone who truly can cut it with the elite. He has cemented his place in history and his record serves as a proud monument to his esteemed career. And with Euro 2016 coming next summer, the Three Lions skipper could still yet make himself known as this country’s best ever if he can lead his team to victory in France.