Wayne Rooney's poetic side has been revealed by former England youth coach, Dick Bate

'Here was a young boy just expressing his love for England in the best format'

Dick Bate, the former England youth coach, has revealed that Wayne Rooney once shared his love of playing for his country with a poem he had written, which he performed to his team-mates.

Bate had been asked to take charge of the England team for the 2002 Under-17 European Championship and had heard good things about a young Liverpudlian in Everton's academy who was running rings around opponents for fun.

At first sight, there was little to suggest the teenager who reported for duty just before the championships would go on to earn 99 senior caps before his 29th birthday.

"He didn't stand out, not in terms of the way he dressed or behaved," Bate says.

Once he had seen Rooney in action, Bate's opinion changed.

"His attitude was absolutely first-class," Bate said.

"He was combative without being over-aggressive and I liked that.

"He was a genuine boy and a genuine footballer."

On April 29, 2002, a crowd of 711 assembled at the Gladsaxe Stadion in Soborg to watch England face Holland.

After 31 minutes, Rooney picked up the ball off Lee Croft and shuffled it from his left foot to his right before firing into the far corner.

 

It was his first goal representing England and he would score four more on the way towards winning the player of the tournament award.

Rooney's love affair with England had begun and he wanted to share it with his team-mates.

On the night England were eliminated the squad convened for a farewell meal. Then something unexpected happened.

After gaining Bate's permission, Rooney stood up and produced a piece of paper from his pocket. On it he had written a poem about how much he loved playing for his country.

Rooney, along with team-mate James Biggins, recited the poem called When Saturday Comes to a crowd of nearly 30 silent onlookers.

"I think it took most of the group aback," Bate said.

Dressing room convention dictates Bate is not allowed to reveal the full contents of the poem, but it is safe to say there were no rhyming couplets or iambic pentameters involved.

But that did not matter.

"Here was a young boy just expressing his love for England in the best format and most succinct manner he could," said Bate, who has 37 years coaching experience.

"I have never seen anyone stand up and do that before.

"I will never forget it."

Rooney will make his 100th appearance for his country in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on Saturday week.

PA

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