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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Misery in Rooney's pub
By Maria La Rocca
BBC One's Real Story

England fans in Wayne Rooney's favourite pub
Drinkers in the "Westie" are devastated by Rooney's exit
Croxteth, a working class suburb just east of Liverpool city centre, was until recently home to Wayne Rooney and his parents.

It was in a nearby park that the now 50m-rated footballer was first spotted by a talent scout.

Residents pouring into the Western Approaches pub to watch England's quarter-final against Portugal seemed oblivious to the television crews set up by the big screen.

"It gets a bit much," said 62-year-old Rodney Starkie of the press attention.

Real Story: A Wayne Rooney special
Monday, 28 June, 2004
19:30 BST on BBC One

"We know how good he is but Wayne and his family have been coming here for years and they're just ordinary people."

It's not that the crowd at this "true blue" pub are not proud of what the 18-year-old Everton striker has achieved for his country.

Callum Sweeney (left) and Daniel Forshawe settle down for the match
Framed memorabilia signed by him is visible under the England flags on the walls.

But minutes before kick-off, there was a strong sense that the media could break the boy wonder just as easily as it built him up.

"They're putting too much pressure on him," says Callum Sweeney, who at 14 was one of the youngsters from Rooney's old school who snuck in to watch the match with his family.

He claims his sister once had a brief romance with the star. He and his mates are staunch Evertonians.

"It's not just Rooney's job to win, though, it's a team effort."

Cheering England fans
Hopes are high as Owen scores the first goal
Tension mounted with the national anthem.

Three minutes in and Michael Owen's goal sent the crowd shooting up from their seats, spilling beer, and punching the air.

Those in Liverpool shirts clearly savoured Owen's victory over his critics.

"He's a great player," shouted Reds supporter Alby Smith through the full lunged chanting.

But delight turned to despair when Rooney injured his ankle whilst battling Andrade for the ball.

Stevie Morris
Stevie Morris: "gutted" for old boxing trainee Rooney
The pub watched despondently as its famous son limped off for x-rays.

"He'll be gutted," said Stevie "Mouse" Morris, a coach at Croxteth boxing club where Wayne and his brothers have trained.

"He was just warming up."

"You did well son!" yelled an elderly man, prompting a sympathetic burst of applause.

Half time and Rooney's exit had dampened the mood of a group of middle-aged women in a corner who all seemed to know the player's Aunties.

Shirley Williams
Shirley Williams shows off a picture of Rooney with her son
"His family has done so much for him," explained housewife Shirley Williams, 47, who proudly showed me a newspaper cutting of Wayne and her son as school-mates.

In the other lounge, the Starkie family were also disappointed for Wayne.

"It's a shame, we wanted to see him score again," lamented Margaret, whose grandaughter Sophie has a painted face.

"Wayne's a lovely lad. He sits over there with his girlfriend. He likes it in here because no-one bothers him."

I asked her if she was worried that the pressure of fame could jepoardise Rooney's career in the way it did for George Best and Paul Gascoigne.

"No way. He's too passionate about the game."

The Starkie family
The Starkie family: "Rooney is a lovely lad"
In the betting shop next door manager Paul Edwards told me about a third of all bets taken that day were for Rooney to score the first goal.

"We paid out 1,500 on him last Thursday when he scored the first goal against Switzerland," recalled Mr Edwards.

"It's probably good for business that he's gone off injured but I'm sorry as an England supporter."

Back in the "Westie", an equaliser by Portugal sent supporters' heads sinking into their hands.

The crowd was nervous but did not lose hope that England would score that vital second goal.

And they did.

"We've got this," Reds and Blues reassured each other.

Betting agent Paul Edwards
Bookie Paul Edwards: Rooney's injury is "good for business"
"But we'll need Rooney back next Wednesday," someone muttered.

At 2-2, the pub prepared for the torment of a penalty shoot-out.

After defeat, people sloped off in disbelief.

Rooney's Uncle Richie who had been stood at the back throughout the match very politely told me his brother over in Portugal had asked him not to make any comment.

A newspaper photographer sat quietly emailing pictures from his laptop, wedged inbetween two teenagers still pitifully waving their England flags.

"One thing's for sure," said the landlord, sweeping up a smashed glass, "you've got to enjoy it while it lasts."

Real Story: A Wayne Rooney special was on BBC One on Monday 28 June 2004 at 1930 BST.

SEE ALSO:
Rooney mania
24 Jun 04  |  Real Story
Is Rooney the new Beckham? Discuss...
28 Jun 04  |  Real Story
Rooney faces two months out
26 Jun 04  |  Football
What are metatarsal injuries?
25 Jun 04  |  Features
Nine fab facts about Wayne's world
21 Jun 04  |  Features


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