Down-to-earth Rooney invites childhood mates to star-filled birthday bash

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The Independent Football

In these troubled times for the world of football, here is something of an antidote.

Wayne Rooney, the boy wonder of the English game, marks his passage to manhood today with an 18th birthday party that has grown so huge he has had to hire Aintree Racecourse as the venue.

It will, of course, have all the hallmarks we have come to associate with extremely well paid young men. (The Everton striker is on a mere £13,000 a week). There will be huge marquees and music by the Liverpool girl-band Atomic Kitten and the boy-band Busted, who are flying to the party from Japan.

There will be a galaxy of tabloid celebrities, with soap stars from Coronation Street, EastEnders and Hollyoaks, as well as team-mates from England and Everton (though David Beckham will be absent because he is playing for Real Madrid tomorrow).

There is even an exclusive picture deal with the celebrity magazine OK!

But the six-figure fee from that is not going to subsidise the celebrations. Rooney - whose first action to mark his 18th birthday last week was not having his first legal pint but becoming a patron of Alder Hey children's hospital - is to donate all the cash to the hospital. "It is close to where I live and it is where I used to go if I was sick as a child," he said recently, "so it's nice to be able to give something back."

More than that, mixing with the minor celebs will be many of his schoolboy friends who still live on the Croxteth council estate from where Rooney moved to an expensive house in the Merseyside suburb of West Derby recently.

His friends will be there to see the star announce his engagement to sweetheart Colleen McLoughlin.

One of his mates who decided to stay on at De La Salle School in Croxteth when Rooney left told the local paper: "He is not one to forget his roots. Even though there will be lots of celebrities, Wayne has still invited loads of his old friends. It is going to be an absolutely fabulous night."

The party was organised when Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, told the player it would just not be possible for him to have a normal 18th, going around town with his mates. That Rooney could consider such an option is a mark of how untouched by fame and money he still is.

He has had an extraordinary year that would have gone to the head of many wiser souls. He has signed lucrative sponsorship deals with global brands such as Nike, Mastercard, Coca-Cola, Ford and Pringles - and turned down another worth £3m because it asked too much of an off-field commitment of him.

Devotion to his football and a dedication to training are his trademarks. He foiled plans by team-mates for a surprise party in the canteen by turning up first for training - yet again - and being there when the balloons arrived.

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