Rooney closes in on goal century
There is a sepia tint already about that immortal afternoon when Wayne Rooney, five days short of his 17th birthday and with something resembling a fringe, took down a 20-yard pass from Thomas Gravesen with his right foot, swivelled, nudged the ball twice towards goal and sent a shot past the helpless Sol Campbell and David Seaman which prompted a statement more prescient than Clive Tyldesley will ever conjure up again. "Remember the name: Wayne Rooney."
The goal, Rooney's first in senior football, was unleashed for Everton after the clock had ticked into the 90th minute by a player younger than any who had scored in the Premier League against an Arsenal team unbeaten in 30 Premier League games. Some outcomes are just fated to happen in football and for those who believe in its wonderful symmetries the next might occur on Saturday. The birthday celebrations will have passed this time – Rooney is 23 on Friday – but the venue is the same and Rooney will be going back to Goodison Park looking for his 100th career goal. With his ninth in seven games against Celtic on Tuesday, it certainly seems like destiny has his spiritual home in mind for the mark.
"It would be special to do it at Everton," Rooney said yesterday. "It's always nice to get to 100 goals when you're a striker and if I could do it at Everton that would be really pleasing."
It is hard to believe at times that Rooney is still only 22 – Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated that when he described him as 23, last Saturday – and the way he talks about how time has flown makes him sound like the veteran he isn't. "I remember when I came into the Everton team, at the age of 16, and Alan Stubbs telling me to try to enjoy every moment because it goes a lot quicker than you think," he said. "Over the years I've realised he was right. The last six or seven years have flown by."
But Rooney will simply live the moment on Merseyside, two days from now. "I just want to enjoy every game because before too long I'll be finishing," he said, with a twinkle in his eye.