True Blue who found a Red Devil in waiting

Tuesday was a special night too for Bob Pendleton. Simon Turnbull reports
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Bob Pendleton was a busy man on Tuesday night. "I'm on the committee of the Walton and Kirkdale Junior League," he explained. "There's only three of us and we had to get together to get things sorted for our annual meeting."

Pendleton was still finished in time for the big match, though. "I watched it at home with the missus," he said. "It was great to see the young fella doing so well. He scored three great goals.

"Mind you, anyone who saw him play in his early days will tell you he could always score great goals. There was one in particular I'll never forget."

Wayne Rooney was a young fella of just 10 years old at the time. He was playing for Everton Under-12s at Manchester United's old Littleton Road training ground in Salford. He was standing with his back to goal when a mishit cross came over from the wing. He flung himself into the air and whacked a scissors kick into the top corner of the Manchester United net. The handful of coaches, scouts and parents were stunned into disbelieving silence before breaking into thunderous applause.

They skipped the stunned silence bit at Old Trafford on Tuesday night as Rooney marked his baptism as a £27m Manchester United player with a stunning Champions' League hat-trick against Fenerbahce. It might have all been very different, though, had Bob Pendleton not stopped to collect a few coppers at the Jeffrey Humble Playing Fields in Aintree one Sunday morning in 1994.

The treasurer of the Walton and Kirkdale Junior League had asked him to chase up some referees' fees owed by Copplehouse Colts. "I walked down to where they were playing," Pendleton recalled, "and I was standing talking to their manager, Big Neville, when I saw this little fella. He was so comfortable on the ball. He didn't give it away when he got hold of it.

"The manager pointed out his mam and dad, big Wayne and Jeanette, and I went over and said I'd like to take the little fella to Bellefield. The look on their faces said it all. They were Evertonians."

A retired train driver, Pendleton, 65, is a scout for Everton's youth academy. He took Rooney to Everton's Bellefield training ground the following Thursday night. After the briefest of glimpses, Ray Hall, the director of Everton's youth academy, had little hesitation in signing the eight-year-old.

"It is a nice feeling to sit in front of your television and see him do so well," Pendleton reflected. "It's nice to see your judgement was right. Mind you, anyone could see he was special. It's good for Everton, too. He was really looked after by the coaching staff there.

"Ray Hall and Colin Harvey took him on to another level. They're the ones who should take the credit. David Moyes too. They nurtured him, shielded him, and brought him on.

"I really respect the young fella and what he's done. I'm pleased for his family, too. I only wish he'd been playing and scoring for Everton for the rest of his career, because I'm an Evertonian. I've been going to Goodison since 1947.

"But it is great to see the young fella score goals like that - whether it's for Everton, England or his present club."

Like any true-Blue Evertonian, the most significant scout since Baden Powell cannot quite bring himself to utter the name Manchester United in context with "the young fella".

Still, it might have been worse. Before Bob Pendleton's fateful visit to Copplehouse Colts, the eight-year-old Rooney had already had trials with Liverpool. They did not so much dislike the look of him as the colour of his shirt. He turned up in Everton kit.