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Rooney has been moving force

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / July 13, 2011

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AMESBURY - When Anthony “Tosh’’ Farrell was coaching Wayne Rooney in Everton FC’s academy program, he was told one thing: “Lose him,’’ Farrell recalled last week, “and we lose you.’’

Eventually, both Farrell and Rooney moved on. And Farrell, who is now coaching youth teams in Massachusetts, will be in the Gillette Stadium stands tonight watching Rooney play for Manchester United against the Revolution in an exhibition.

“He was great for the young kids there,’’ Rooney said of Farrell. “He really pushed me to do well. I think he saw I had the talent, and he always played me a year or two years above my age, really helped me progress to getting in the first team at such a young age.’’

Rooney was 16 when he made his Premier League debut in 2002. Two years later, he transferred to Manchester United, in a 32 million euro deal.

“Of course all my family is Everton fans,’’ Rooney said between Manchester United training sessions yesterday. “It was a big part of my family’s life, so it was a great honor for me to play for them. It was extremely tough to leave the club I supported all my life, the club I played on and won trophies with.’’

And Rooney’s move might have been even more difficult for Everton coaches and supporters.

“For us, as coaches,’’ Farrell recalled during an interview at Amesbury Sports Park, “we’ve been polishing this jewel. It was like we put it on display in the Tower of London and it’s been stolen from us.

“Talking as an Everton supporter, I was gutted. He had the talent that got you on the edge of your seat. But we also knew he would someday be gone, and if we get two or three years out of him, we got a great deal.

“Wayne saved the club - when he left, although it weakened us in one position, it allowed us to strengthen in other positions. That gave Everton a financial platform to move forward on. Not every supporter would look at it that way. They would say we’ve got a great striker. But if you haven’t got the players to get him the ball, you’ve got a great striker but he’s not going to score goals.’’

Rooney has converted plenty of times since joining Manchester United, helping the club win the 2008 Champions League and last season’s Premier League title.

“Wayne has always played up in his career and always moved on to the next level and I think that was the next level at the time,’’ Farrell said. “Wayne always played above himself, pushed himself, and Everton couldn’t have promised him Champions League and competing against the world’s best. Does he stay or move on and see if he is one of the world’s best or not?

“He always had the potential, but I personally think he’s going to be even better. Is he going to be at Manchester United forever? Personally, I think he’s going to move on to Barcelona or Real Madrid. I think he’s going to want to challenge himself.’’

Farrell guided players such as Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell, and James Vaughn, who would move on to Everton’s first team, plus Callum McManaman, now with Wigan Athletic and the England Under-20 national team. Then there are Rooney’s brothers, Graham and John (now a New York Red Bulls forward).

“The last time I talked to [Rooney] on the coaching field, he had come to see his brothers playing,’’ Farrell said. “It was just after he scored that wonder goal against Arsenal [to break the Gunners’ 30-game unbeaten streak]. It’s a red-hot day and Wayne turns up with his shirt off and I told him, ‘Get your shirt on.’ And, it was straight on with the shirt. He realized he could get sunburned, and that could cause problems. But that also just shows that family, how they supported each other.’’

Farrell emphasized individual skills, dribbling, and a short-passing game at Everton.

“They didn’t do this to my face, but they used to call me ‘Rolls,’ ’’ Farrell said, “because I was always telling the goalkeeper to roll the ball out, no long kicks.’’

There is evidence the Everton development setup has been a factor in the progress of several players. But Farrell said Rooney would have achieved stardom regardless.

Farrell has videos of Rooney as a youngster, slicing past opponents and finishing, launching long-distance shots, setting up teammates.

“I like to think the academy helped him but Wayne would been great no matter what,’’ Farrell said. “He was scoring goals that would make your jaw drop, wonder goals week in and week out, right foot, left foot, head. He would see the goalkeeper off his line and hit from 40 yards and it would sail into the net. One like that’s a fluke, but it’s not a fluke if you’re doing it every week.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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