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World Cup 2018

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Why Everton's youth players are amazed by seeing hero Wayne Rooney, reveals Northern Ireland ace Shayne Lavery

Shayne Lavery is still adjusting to life as an international footballer.

Just four years ago, Lavery was winning the Harry Cavan Youth Cup with Portadown - now he's a senior Northern Ireland star making his way through the ranks at Everton, where he even appeared on the bench for the Europa League tie at Apollon Limassol in December.

It's little wonder, really, that even after three years with the Merseyside giants, rubbing shoulders with his biggest football idol takes some getting used to.

“Wayne Rooney, basically,” Lavery said, when asked for his boyhood inspiration. “I’ve always watched Wayne Rooney since I could kick a ball.

“For him to come back to Everton was just amazing,” Lavery continued, discussing Rooney's return to Everton last summer.

“When you see him in the corridor, you’re a little bit taken aback. All the lads were the same: it’s Wayne Rooney. I’ve never experienced that before with the lads at Everton. You see the first team, but seeing Wayne Rooney - he’s a football legend.

“He’ll talk to the young lads, which is good. He’ll not just walk past you. He’s really nice.”

Lavery, 19, has picked up some more assistance from another Everton first-team player, with Republic of Ireland full-back Seamous Coleman looking out for the Craigavon lad.

“I’ve struggled with my hamstring this last year and he’s always asking how it is," Lavery said. "He’s really good with the young players, not only me. He’s come from the League of Ireland so we’ve talked a few times about back home. That’s really good, it helps.”

Lavery made his senior Northern Ireland bow against Panama this week, but his rather pessimistic outlook pre-match meant his mum Margaret and dad Martin likely had to wait to find out about such a key life event

“I didn’t think I was going to play so I said, ‘Just go to sleep, wake up in the morning, you’ll be alright’,” Lavery explained.

“Then I did play. I phoned them in the morning. My mum would go on Twitter, I think, my dad would have just slept! He’s not missing his sleep! They were made up.

“Mum’s always got me to the football, when I was back playing underage. She’s always brought me to football and my dad’s got me into football.

“I think it was six o’clock every Tuesday, Thursday night, mum was beeping the horn to get me out because I had just got back from school and I’d be tired.”

Since moving away from such safe hands, Lavery has been thrust into the care of a host family at Everton - but as he prepares to move into his own place, it's finally time to learn how to use the cooker.

“It’s not too bad, (but) they (the host family) won’t say that,” he laughed. “I can do scrambled egg!”

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