Jimmy Mulville: All true Blues should thank Wayne... then wish him luck
Wednesday 01 September 2004
It just so happens that my company, Hat Trick Productions, was sponsoring the Everton-Arsenal game in October 2002. Although a season ticket holder, I wouldn't have gone otherwise. I was halfway through a course of radiotherapy for a small tumour that had been discovered in my right tonsil earlier that year, and as anyone will tell you who has undergone this sort of treatment, it does not fill you with a desire to travel 200 miles to watch your team play a rampaging Arsenal.
However, my sense of duty overcame my sense of tiredness and so I had a ringside seat for That Goal. For a 16 year old to score such a goal against the then England goalkeeper was an unforgettable way to say hello. As soon as the ball hit the net, the boy-man ran to the crowd and opened his arms, his face beaming with delight. We, the crowd, opened our arms and beamed back. It was love at first sight.
That goal was a memorable way for Wayne Rooney to introduce himself. But it was also the beginning of a long, painful goodbye.
And now he has gone. All that is left are a few exciting memories - and nearly £30m. And for all those idiots who scrawled their brainless graffiti vilifying this amazing young talent, they should remember that - unlike so many recent Everton players - he has left us in much better shape than when he arrived. And that he is a mere 18 year old, swimming in the sea of sharks that infest modern football.
The truth is that while our Everton hearts wanted to keep Wayne forever blue, our Everton heads knew that it would be only a matter of time before the club and the player were forced to bow to the inevitable.
As someone who has supported Everton since he was four years old (and I'm now approaching 50), I want to see Everton win the League, in Europe once again and buying the Rooneys of the future. But clinging on to Wayne would not have helped this cause. Last season he played like someone who didn't really want to be at Goodison; everything about his body language betrayed a yearning to be elsewhere. The boy wonder on display in Euro 2004 was a very different person: full of swagger, energy and invention. Wayne had found his level - the world stage.
United may have got their man but he's only passing through. This boy is bound to become one of the great galacticos - and it will take more than Rooney to salvage United's season.
I thought it was symbolic that a Rooneyless Everton were a match for the stars of United on Monday. Everton played like a team possessed. Strangely for David Moyes and his unsung journeymen, the absence of Rooney might prove a galvanising force.
Now that Wayne has left, the club can be put on a more secure financial footing. I sincerely hope that Bill Kenwright will be allowed to run the club he loves without Paul Gregg causing any further boardroom ructions.
And I would implore my fellow Evertonians not to revile a young man whose only crime was that he was too gifted in a sport which has now become distorted by obscene amounts of money. Instead, they should give thanks that for a brief time we held such a talent and that we have been fortunate enough to benefit so richly from his departure.
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