Wayne Rooney makes his 100th appearance for England tonight which has lead to several newspapers looking for weird and wonderful ways to mark the occasion.
Jeff Powell, a journalist who has been going since England won the World Cup, has remembered his favourite memory of United’s striker.
The first day of March, 2006, was unusually wintry, even for Liverpool. England were playing Uruguay in a friendly at Anfield. There was a dusting of snow during the match, followed by a heavy fall as it ended in a 2-1 victory for England.
The snow was several inches deep as I trudged through the Shankly Gates, head down against the storm. Suddenly, splat. A snowball hit me in the chest. I looked up to see young Wayne Rooney, laughing.
Then he said: ‘Hello, Mr Powell. Come on. Help me deal with these lads.’
He was engaged in a snowball fight. A friendly one, even though this was Anfield, the kids were Liverpool fans and he was a former Everton player who had become a superstar with Manchester United.
I joined in, shoulder to shoulder with Wayne, until both of us and the group of boys were smothered in snow. There was more laughter as the lads shouted their thanks and scurried off through the dim yellow light cast by the old lamp posts.
As I picked up my briefcase, Rooney asked: ‘Where you heading?’
‘Driving back to London.’
‘Where you parked?’
‘Up there in a side street.’
‘I’ll walk with you. Can’t be too safe this time of night.’
And so he did, as we chuckled about the snowballs.
It hadn’t been his best of nights in an England shirt. He had been substituted in the 64th minute, before Peter Crouch and Joe Cole scored the goals which won the game.
Still he took time out to delight that group of fans and josh with me. Still he was one of the lads. Still is at heart.
As he says, if he hadn’t made it as a footballer he would be out there with them on cold nights. Behind the goal rather than shooting into it.
Those who would knock England’s best player might think on that as he collects his 100th cap at Wembley this Saturday. Raise a glass, even. Cheers Wayne. Thanks for the memory.