Belfast Telegraph

Cheers for an older and wiser Wayne Rooney on Belfast return

By Steven Beacom

Wayne Rooney returned to Windsor Park on Tuesday night. Can you believe seven years have passed since his last appearance at the stadium when he infamously lost the plot?

That was when Rooney was playing in the white of England against a pumped-up Northern Ireland side and in front of a vociferous crowd that just wouldn't stop.

Rooney took some serious stick from the Green and the White Army on September 7, 2005 and, truth be told, he couldn't handle it.

He wasn't helped by the fact that, in a bizarre system devised by the then England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, Rooney was deployed wide on the left with David Beckham given the freedom of the pitch to try and pull the strings.

The plan didn't work with Rooney becoming increasingly frustrated as the challenges from Northern Ireland players became fiercer and the abuse from the stands grew louder.

Approaching half-time Rooney was booked and, perhaps, lucky not to be sent off when he elbowed Keith Gillespie.

When captain Beckham tried to calm him down on the way off at the break, Rooney reacted angrily and pushed Posh's other half away.

The second half was equally as annoying for Rooney when David Healy scored the only goal of the game to earn Northern Ireland that much celebrated victory.

On Tuesday night things were much different for Rooney, who today will be named in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the Euro 2012 finals despite being suspended for the opening two group matches.

Seven years on, Rooney received cheers not jeers and he actually seemed to enjoy the Windsor Park experience rather than endure it.

Brought on after 62 minutes, Windsor roared its approval for the entrance of United's star man. Seconds later when United were awarded a penalty there were cries from the Kop for the number 10 to take it.

He did, slamming it confidently home much to the delight of all those wearing red.

Every time he touched the ball there was a sense of high excitement. Coleraine's Stephen Lowry felt the same emotion when he nabbed Wayne's shirt at the end.

If Tuesday night was anything to go by Wazza will be welcome back at Windsor Park any time.

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