The following article appeared in the July issue of the Everton magazine. Click here to find out more about our monthly magazine.
At 1.15pm on Sunday 9 July, Everton Football Club put an end to speculation that had been swirling for weeks.
It was true. Wayne Rooney was coming home.
The following afternoon, and some 13 years after he last visited the stadium as an Everton player, Rooney walked through the doors of Goodison Park once more, joining manager Ronald Koeman to be ceremonially handed the royal blue shirt.
Outside, hundreds of Evertonians gathered, all hoping to get that first glimpse of their returning hero. Inside, as Rooney spoke to the media, there was fervour, reflection and rousing talk of the Club’s new ambition.
For while this was always going to be a transfer laced with emotion, it should not be mistaken for one of sentimentality.
Rooney has unfinished business.
“As I’ve said for the last few years, if I left Manchester United, there’s only Everton I’d play for - I wouldn’t play for another Premier League team,” the 31-year-old told Everton as he was reunited with the Club’s official magazine for the first time since leaving for Old Trafford in 2004.
“I was true to that and I firmly meant that. I didn’t want to play for another club in England other than Everton. Once I knew Everton were interested and wanted to sign me, I made my agent aware, ‘Go and speak to them, let’s make it happen. That’s where I want to go.’
“For me, winning trophies with Everton would be the pinnacle and I really feel now the Club is moving in the right direction.
“The right calibre of players are being brought in and I want to be part of it, hopefully part of a successful Everton team.
“With the new stadium in the pipeline, it’s an exciting time to be an Everton player, to be an Everton fan. It’s on us players to make those times even more exciting by giving the fans good performances and try to help Everton be successful and bring trophies to the Club.”
Earlier on that Monday morning, Rooney had reported in for training, not at his old haunt, Bellefield, but at the Club’s modern-day training base, USM Finch Farm. It’s just one of many notable differences from the Everton he left.
Driving through the gates of the Halewood complex that will be his workplace for at least the next two seasons, Rooney admits he was eager to get his second spell with his boyhood club up and running.
“I was excited,” he says. “Excited to go in, meet the lads, get on the training pitch and get going.
“Some of the players I’ve played with before and a lot I haven’t, so I’m trying to get to know how they play. It’s going to be important for me to get the right training over the next few weeks and get myself ready for the season.
“But it’s a great feeling to be back. I cannot wait to get to know all the lads, get on the training pitch as much as possible and then get on the pitch to play. I’m ecstatic – I just cannot wait to get back playing.”
Whether it comes in the UEFA Europa League third-round qualifier, the friendly against Sevilla or even on the opening day of the Premier League season against Stoke City, Rooney’s latest emergence from the Goodison Park tunnel out on to the pitch is sure to be a spectacle.
The return of few names to the Club has sparked such widespread optimism amongst Evertonians, who flocked on to social media to welcome back the Blues’ most successful ever Academy graduate, in terms of trophies won.
Rooney himself is eager to have Z-Cars ringing in his ears once more.
“It will be an emotional day when I walk back out at Goodison,” he says. “Once you are on the pitch you need to focus on the game but the build-up will be exciting for myself and my family.
“I know all of my family are delighted to see me playing in a blue shirt again and it’s a day that I’m looking forward to.
“My kids – my oldest lad especially knows about football and is an Evertonian – are delighted that I’ve come back.
“My eldest lad [Kai] was the happiest out of everyone, my dad [Wayne Snr], too, who is a massive Evertonian.
“He’s gone to watch for the last 13 years in Manchester and now he’ll have a five-minute drive to watch me so I think he’s really happy.”
As covered across many other pages of this magazine, Rooney’s arrival is by no means isolated.
In fact, despite agreeing terms a full month before the Premier League campaign was due to get under way, Rooney followed five other players into Goodison Park: Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane, Sandro Ramirez and Henry Onyekuru, albeit the latter will spend the 2017/18 campaign on loan with renowned Belgian club Anderlecht.
Like all of his new teammates, Rooney is impressed by the vision of Koeman and Director of Football Steve Walsh - and is happy to admit that the Dutchman was a big factor in him deciding it was the right time to make a widely-prophesied return to L4.
“Ronald Koeman was very influential in me coming here,” he explains. “When it was obvious I was going to be leaving Manchester United this summer, Ronald came out a few times and said how much he wanted me at the Club, and that had a huge impact on me.
“There were other options to consider but once I knew that Everton wanted me to come back then it was the only option for me.
“I’m excited, and I’m excited by the signings that the Club have made.
“Bill [Kenwright] obviously played a big role in it but the important one was Ronald Koeman. He was the one who picks the team and he’s the one who has his ideas on the football pitch. There were a lot more things behind the scenes which needed to happen but, for me, the important person to speak to was Ronald Koeman.
“As I spoke to Ronald and saw it in his eyes that he wanted me to be part of his team, it was a no-brainer for me. This was the only place I was going to go.”
Once a Blue, always a Blue. Welcome home, Wayne.