Everton's Phil Jagielka has indicated that Wayne Rooney will receive a more vitriolic welcome than ever at Goodison Park on Saturday as the striker's attempts to resolve his personal problems coincide with an appearance before the supporters who have never forgiven him for his £27m move to Old Trafford six years ago.
The levels of abuse Rooney has received at Goodison Park have been as bad as those experienced by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard at times in recent years and when asked whether he thought Rooney would be "slaughtered" in the light of allegations of his relationship with prostitute Jennifer Thompson, Jagielka said he thought there was "a good chance". The defender, whose performances in England's two Euro 2012 qualifiers raise the prospect of John Terry now struggling to displace him from the international side, said: "He normally gets quite a bit of stick anyway. I can't see that changing on Saturday."
Jagielka voiced hopes that the abuse directed at Rooney – he, like Gerrard, has been forced to endure taunts about his wife in the past – will not go over the top. "I hope so. At the end of the day, we are all human beings," he said. But the 28-year-old clearly relishes the combat that lies ahead during a fixture in which Rooney has seemed uncharacteristically affected by the atmosphere in recent years, scoring only once in nine encounters against his former club.
Asked if he was looking forward to the occasion, Jagielka said: "Yes, it should be amusing. Up on Merseyside he normally gets a little bit of stick and I'll be giving him a little bit as well if he plays on Saturday."
In the England set-up, Jagielka has already reminded Rooney, who must also tolerate Rangers and Liverpool fans in his subsequent two fixtures, of the welcome that awaits him at Goodison. Asked if he had broached the subject, Jagielka replied: "Yeah definitely, all the boys know who is playing who. It's always interesting playing against people who you have just been away with in the week. No doubt I'll give him a couple of bits of banter if he plays."
There is no particular enmity between Rooney and Jagielka, who arrived three years after Everton's great prospect had left, though apparently no particular affection, either. There was a slight froideur when Jagielka was engaged on the subject of the striker's personal travails. "It's not for me to comment," Jagielka said. "I'm not exactly best of friends with Wayne. Obviously I've not been hanging around with him. He seems his normal self but I don't really have an in-depth view of how he has been feeling."
Jagielka clearly relishes the prospect of facing Rooney more than most Premier League central defenders seem to. "I like playing against good players and Wayne is definitely a good player. I'm not going to say [I'll come out on top] or he'll score a hat-trick. It's always a tough battle, he's obviously a good player and you have always got to concentrate."
Rooney's record against the red half of Merseyside has been equally poor – two goals in 11 games against Liverpool going back to January 2005 – and Sir Alex Ferguson gave consideration last October to resting Rooney for the visit to Anfield because of doubts over his temperament. The United manager is unlikely to take that course of action on Saturday, with Tuesday night's contribution in Basle underlining the 24-year-old's ability to seemingly dismiss personal circumstances when the action starts.
Before last February's 3-1 defeat at Goodison – the only game in which Rooney failed to score in a blistering run of form which saw him net 11 times in eight club matches last spring – Everton manager David Moyes moved publicly to end the emotive feud between himself and Rooney when he revealed how the striker had apologised for comments about him in his autobiography.
The ramifications of the tabloid story of Rooney's visits to a Merseyside brothel were the root cause of the dispute between the player and his former manager. Rooney wrongly alleged that he leaked to the local press details of a conversation they had held following revelations that the then teenager had visited a brothel. They eventually reached an out-of-court settlement in 2008.Reuse content