The Bubblegum Kid strikes again

Everton's blue-eyed boy answers the critics of his demeanour at TV award ceremony with a spectacular goal to chew over

Mr Mark Burton
Sunday 15 December 2002 01:00

After the outbursts of indignation at his loose-tied mastication on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, Wayne Rooney blew his own trumpet yesterday the way he does best, setting up Everton's first goal and scoring their winner in a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers.

The only ties and awards that interest the Everton faithful are the contractual kind that will keep The Kid from Croxteth buying his gum in the Goodison Park area for as long as possible. The Young Sports Personality of the Year seems to be boxing clever, pushing his value to David Moyes' side and thus his negotiating strength ever higher. After three successive setbacks in cup and League, Moyes gave Rooney a starting role for the first time in the Premiership since his 17th birthday. He was amply rewarded.

The Kid crashed a first-time shot against the post after 12 minutes to leave Lee Carsley with a tap-in equaliser to Andy Cole's opener for Rovers, but his best was yet to come. Goalkeeper Richard Wright punted a long clearance downfield, and Rooney flicked the ball beyond the defensive cover before unleashing a superb right-foot shot past Brad Friedel.

Moyes was in man management mode afterwards, drawing parallels between his side and that BBC event in which Paula Radcliffe was the real star. "It's not the Wayne Rooney show, but we're aware of how important he is to us," the Everton manager said. "He's got all the attributes, but more importantly he's got football intelligence." It oozes through his tie-ups.

If the Blues in the North-west had something to purr about, those from west London could manage only a deep sigh after being held to a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough that prevented them going to the top of the Premiership. Chelsea claimed a point thanks to John Terry's close-range equaliser after falling behind to Géremi's 32nd-minute free-kick. That put them third, one point behind the leaders Arsenal, who face a little local difficulty at Tottenham today, and Manchester United, who secured a predictable 3-0 home victory over West Ham.

Fortune continues to hide from the Hammers. There was little they could do at Old Trafford against a United side who look back to their rampant best thanks in no small part to the revival in Juan Sebastian Veron's form. He scored with a Beckhamesque free-kick after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's opener to put United two-up in the first 15 minutes. Their victory was completed when Sébastian Schemmel turned a cross into his own net.

Never mind "Bubbles", what West Ham wouldn't give for the Bubblegum Kid.

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