'There's No Feeling Like Scoring For Everton'

by Paul McNamara

Wayne Rooney had scored his first Everton goal. Not just any old goal, either. A 90th-minute winner against all-conquering Arsenal – and past England’s best goalkeeper, to boot.

He was understandably and unmistakably euphoric.

Francis Jeffers’ emotions, as he watched Everton’s new 16-year-old hero soak up the adulation of a rejoicing Goodison Park, were rather more complex.

All at once, Jeffers was hurt, envious… and proud.

He had seen it coming, though. Not just when observing the preternatural Rooney not so much graduating as bulldozing through the Toffees’ youth ranks, but also from his vantage point behind the ball as it left the young Evertonian’s boot.

Jeffers had the best view in the house of the Rooney-guided missile arcing its way beyond a helpless David Seaman, kissing the underside of the crossbar and, finally, coming to rest in the back of the net.

It was 19 October 2002 – 15 years ago today – that Rooney scored the goal which heralded the arrival of a new English footballing superstar.

For Arsenal, who Jeffers had joined from Everton the previous year, it meant they had lost in the league for the first time in 10 months – a run stretching back 30 matches.

“I remember the ball being up my end of the pitch,” says Jeffers, speaking to evertontv. “Unsy (David Unsworth) won it back and got it into Tommy Gravesen, who made a long pass.

“You are just filtering your way back as a striker, getting back in position in case you win it again.

“It fell to the young lad, didn’t it – and it was a great first touch, I remember watching it curl and as soon as it left his foot… you knew.

“I could see it from the opposite end of the pitch. It was always going in.”

Jeffers had replaced enigmatic forward Kanu with 19 minutes remaining and the game all square, after Tomasz Radzinski equalised Freddie Ljunberg’s early goal.

Rooney came on nine minutes after his friend, taking the place of Radzinski and harbouring the same intent as his fellow Blues Academy graduate Jeffers. The two men from Croxteth were set on being the matchwinner.

“You always believe that (you will score),” says Jeffers. “You are put on there to score goals.

“I remember it being a really emotional day. Emotions probably got the better of me, like they always did against Everton.

“It is my team and I was warming up for 60 minutes or so and getting plenty of stick off the fans – which hurt me.

“I always went onto the pitch believing I would score. But it didn’t quite happen. And a good friend of mine did score… the rest is history.”

Was there any part of Jeffers, as he saw the jubilant Rooney submerged by Blue shirts, that thought… it could have been me?

"Probably not at that time,” is Jeffers’ immediate response.

Then he considers the question more deeply. To try to make sense of his feelings on the day, he takes himself back to a time when he was still watching his team from the terraces.

“I am a big Evertonian. I was a season ticket holder, so any goal you score for Everton is special.

“Wayne is from a similar background to me, from ‘Crocky’, the same school, a season ticket holder… went all the games and was fanatical about the Club.

“So, there is always that bit – not jealousy – but you always think, ‘I know what that feeling is like, to score for Everton’… and there ain’t no feeling like it.

“Regardless of where I have played my football, scoring goals for Everton, there was no feeling like it. So, I would probably say I was a bit envious of him scoring a goal for Everton and watching the crowd go wild.”

The Arsenal team that fell foul of Rooney’s rare genius represented a veritable collection of first-class footballers.

Did Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Ljungberg and Seaman et al take Everton lightly, then? And had they overlooked the teenage ace up Toffees' manager David Moyes' sleeve?

“We had some great players in that team, so we did not really focus on the opposition,” says Jeffers.

“Arsene Wenger would have known about Wayne, though, because he studies football, he is obsessed with it.

“When I was playing for Everton and we were down at the wrong end of the table, some top clubs would come to Goodison and get beaten because it is that type of place. Once the fans get up and behind the team it is a difficult place to win.

“We were on a great run but you knew… if it was going to end somewhere it would be Goodison, because it is a tough place to go.

“It wasn’t just the crowd that day, the players were probably better than Arsenal’s. And for Wayne to pop up with the goal made it even more special, didn’t it?

“He believed in his own ability, you could see that by the way he dragged the ball down and curled it in the top corner. Most young lads would have been dragging it down and passing it on to the senior pros. That summed Wayne up."

Four months after Rooney landed his knockout blow on Arsenal, he was sharing a pitch with Jeffers once more.

The pair made their England debuts together in a friendly match against Australia.

“It was my only cap and I managed to get on the scoresheet,” says Everton's Under-23s coach Jeffers. “When I found out it was going to be me and Wayne playing together, it made the moment even more special.

“To play for England is always special but to know you are doing it with one of your mates, who is from the same area and went to the same school… it must have been a proud moment for the whole of Crocky, the schools we went to and our family and friends.

“And what he has gone on and achieved is absolutely phenomenal. I am proud of him.”

Season Ticket, Lounge or We Are Everton Member?

Login then click HERE to check out the latest exclusive content, including player features, classic highlights, interviews and more.


View More