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I have a confession to make.
Down the years, Everton have made me emotional. Duncan Ferguson being sold to Newcastle, I sobbed for hours. Losing to the Magpies in the FA Cup back in 1999, I vividly remember being devastated, not knowing the wait for a trophy would continue well into the 21st century. The 2009 final defeat at Wembley, I was crestfallen.
Yet again, Everton brought tears to my eyes this weekend but, this time, it was for all the right reasons.
I admit it, I got swept up in the emotion of Wayne Rooney returning to his boyhood club. The prodigal son, our shining light who left us all those years ago, had come home.
At around 5am, in the back of a black cab in Liverpool City centre, this grown man, a little worse for wear after a few drinks, blubbed with happiness at the thought of Rooney wearing the royal blue once again.
Confused and concerned, the driver asked what was wrong: ‘He’s home.’ I replied. ‘Who?!’ he queried, even more perplexed. ‘Rooney (now inaudible through the sobs), he’s home.’ Cue hysterical laughter from the cabbie and quickly I got a grip and snapped out of it.
However, on Sunday, sober now but with a banging headache, I was crying again. Absolute madness.
The announcement had been made. Rooney had signed for Everton. I clicked on the video entitled ‘Once a Blue…’. The music, the commentaries of a young, boyhood blue scoring for Everton, the image of Duncan Ferguson in the corridor, it set me off again.
‘You just can’t stop the kid at the moment,’ did me and I was a wreck. It transported me back to the early days of his career. The sky was the limit with him in the team, we could beat anyone. He was the real deal and he was Everton. He was ours.
The crying only lasted about five seconds before I composed myself but those tears were uncontrollable. I could not help it. I was just so overcome with emotion.
Memories flooded my head. That goal and the euphoria which followed against Arsenal. The swagger and skill at Elland Road and the pandemonium from the fans behind the goal. The sheer brilliance of his solo effort at Highbury before he threw his shirt to the ground and stood in front of his people, arms outstretched.
I was taken back to being a 13-year-old again. The joy and sheer excitement I had felt which then turned to pain and anger at the sight of him smiling with a Manchester United shirt.
The love I had for this special talent all those years ago resurfaced. To be frank, it had never wavered. I had adored this lad with everything I had, we all did.
He was our one hope through some very dark days and he was taken from us. He was one of us yet he left us. It hurt.
But now he has returned with some unfinished business. Those good times we envisaged 15 years ago when he first broke through could still be realised.
That is what makes this transfer so special and unique. He’s an Evertonian through and through. He has worn Everton pyjamas with his Everton-loving kids while employed by United. The whole story is fairytale. It’s spellbinding, it’s romantic, it’s magical.
He is you or I. He grew up adoring Everton, going to the match, idolising Big Dunc, Big Nev, the badge. He was at Wembley in 1995. Z Cars, the walk up to Goodison; he knows it all. He loves it all.
The word most associated with this move is ‘home’. To have him back on Merseyside, surrounded by those who loved him, and have continued to love him, it feels like a family welcoming back a long-lost relative. He is back where he belongs.
As he said in his first press conference on Monday, and what a sight to see him at Goodison, his Dad followed him at Old Trafford but will now have only a five-minute journey to watch his son. He’s a local boy done good. Everton runs deep through his veins, ran through his childhood and still now.
‘It will be an emotional day but once you’re on the pitch you need to focus on the game,’ he said of his first game back. ‘The build up will be exciting and my family will be delighted to see me playing in a blue shirt again.’
Eldest son Kai was the happiest, revealed Rooney, and it’s that connection, the fact he has remained a staunch Blue and brought his children up to support the Toffees which has been so endearing. You can’t help but smile at that.
The Liverpool people associated with the blue half of Merseyside are glad to see him back, for he was never meant to leave in the first place had the football Gods and fate not been so cruel.
In the first few images released by the club of his arrival, Ferguson looked so chuffed, with a tight arm around his mate – the young Evertonian who had isolised him growing up who he clearly had as much affection for.
Ferguson had begged for Ronald Koeman to re-sign our former boy wonder. Rooney himself, had returned to play in his idol’s testimonial. The two share a bond through a deep love of Everton.
They both know what it means and the former No 9 beamed with pride to have this Evertonian back. And in a weird, bizarre way, seeing big Dunc so happy made me happy.
Even those who were unsure, or even against a Rooney return, have been caught out by the emotion of the move. Seeing him in the blue, at Finch Farm, instantly brings a buzz. You can’t help but give a little punch of the air because we thought we had lost him forever. However, now, we will get to enjoy him once more.
What my sobbing reaction brought home was that football is so much more than Sky TV money, formations and results. It’s about memories, connections, possibilities, hope.
It is hope that drew Rooney into all our hearts back in 2002.
That expectation and positivity at Everton is as enormous as it has ever been, though now, he is not the sole cause. Rooney is not the sole beacon of hope; he is simply the icing on the cake during what has been a seismic summer at Everton Football Club.
Rooney is here to be a part of this ambitious project and we can live our dreams through him. Through Tom Davies and perhaps Ross Barkley. There is a scouse core which adds to the incredible narrative of this heartwarming transfer. The nostalgia and the sentiment, it has it all.
I had heard murmurs of Rooney wanting to come back for a good two years but remained unsure whether I would ever get to see him back in blue at Goodison.
It was one of the dreams I had as an Everton fan, to be able to tell people I had watched Rooney at the start of his career before his monumental comeback as he led us to trophies.
This is my first personal wish which has been answered by Farhad Moshiri. He has brought him home for us. The sense that all of our dreams could become a reality is what has made Rooney’s return so overwhelming. Most of us wanted to see him come back and it’s happened. This is real. It’s actually happened.
This feels like a different Everton. The times, they are changing, and with that comes immense feelings and emotion.
Make no mistake, Rooney is desperate to win trophies and that is the reason Everton have signed him but, from a personal viewpoint, no matter what he achieves on L4, just getting him back is a success for me.
I’ve wanted this to happen so badly. I have felt ecstatic and overjoyed just because of one transfer – because of what the player and this club means to me. The memories it brings back. The mere fact he shares my love for Everton.
I will feel one hundred times happier and one hundred times more emotional when we lift our first trophy but this move has immense meaning for me. I have been waiting for it since the day he was taken. Longed for it, never knowing if we would get a happy ending. It may not finish perfectly, but I’m glad another chapter has been written in this story.
Some of us feared we would never see the day that Rooney would stride out of the Goodison tunnel wearing the royal Blue shirt. But my wish has come true and I cannot wait for the season to start (I just hope I don’t blub again in the Gwladys!)
He’s one of us and he’s come home.
Once a Blue, Always a Blue.