Paul Gascoigne says Wayne Rooney can be a key figure in Everton’s future ambitions.
The exceptional Gascoigne spent nearly two years at Goodison Park after joining in summer 2000 and remembers fondly the excitement gripping the Club over the emergence of a 14-year-old Rooney.
He was delighted to see England record goalscorer Rooney rejoin Everton last year and is convinced the 32-year-old’s “great football brain” will enable him to prosper for a long time to come.
Gazza recalled: “I used to come and watch the youth team and I remember [then Under-18 boss] Colin Harvey saying, ‘I’m going to put this kid on, watch him’.
“They were getting beat 1-0, Rooney was 14 and he came on and scored two unbelievable goals. I think you can still see them on YouTube. Unbelievable goals.
“He joined a first-team training session one day when he was 15 – he had a day off school and joined in and did not look out of place one bit. He looked like he’d been with us all his life. Incredible, strong and even then you knew he was going to go to be an unbelievable player.
“What a great player. It’s good to see him back at the Club where he grew up. He obviously always loved the club and for him to come back and finish his career here will be fantastic for him and the fans.
“He is still such a talented player. He will never lose that. His thinking for football is incredible. He’s got a great football brain and he’s proved it for so many years. For more than 15 years he’s proven he’s a class player and long may it continue.”
Gascoigne made his Goodison Park debut on the night in August 2000 when Duncan Ferguson marked his return to his spiritual home by scoring twice in a 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic.
Ferguson, who netted 72 goals in 273 Everton appearances across two spells with the Club and was part of the Toffees' 1995 FA Cup-winning team, joined the Goodison coaching staff in October 2011.
He is now a trusted member of Sam Allardyce’s backroom team and Gascoigne is convinced the “fanatical” Evertonian’s influence will prove an invaluable asset to his manager.
Moreover, Gascoigne – who visited the Toffees’ USM Finch Farm training headquarters on Friday – insists Allardyce possesses the knowledge and skills to “push Everton forward again”.
“I just spoke to Duncan and it’s great to see him coaching the first team,” Gascoigne added.
“He said to me he had to do it the hard way, coming up from the U12s, U14s, all the way up, which is a huge credit to him.
“I have great memories playing with him. He was terrific player as well – fanatical. He’s fanatical about Everton.
“It will be a brilliant experience for him working under Sam and I am sure Sam will help him along the way as well.
“I think it will be a bonus for Sam to have somebody who already knows the Club, especially one as big as Everton.”
Allardyce took over as boss in late November and has overseen the Toffees’ rise from a position in the bottom half of the Premier League to a berth just three points behind this weekend’s opponents Burnley in seventh.
“I think Sam – wherever he’s been – has done really, really well,” Gascoigne declared.
“He’s well respected. He has vast experience as well, not just on the pitch but off the pitch. As a manager, he knows a hell of a lot.
“I think his standards are good as well, what he wants from the players and what he wants from himself, too. This is a great club to be the manager and he’ll want to try to build the Club up even more.
“I can remember the Chairman, Bill Kenwright, texting me and saying, ‘Come and have a look at the new training complex.’ He said it’s incredible and he was right. It’s massive. Just looking at the five-a-side pitches – I’d spend all day in there.
“The training ground is definitely a sign of the progress the Club is making.
“Everton was the last great club I played for and having a laugh with the staff here just brought back the memories. I always tell people, ‘I might not be able to play football now but no-one can take away the memories from me.’ I have some great memories here.”