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The real Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard
Rooney and Lampard know each other well as international team-mates

By Ian McGarry

He is one of the most famous players on planet football, the highest-paid star in the Premier League and the jewel in the crown of the England team.

But despite the intense scrutiny of his every action, very little is actually known about Wayne Rooney. And that's why BBC Radio 5 live embarked on a journey to find out more, speaking to his friends, team-mates and those who come from the same neighbourhood in Liverpool. The result is The Real Wayne Rooney.

We started with Frank Lampard, the striker's England team-mate for nearly eight years and someone he counts as a friend.

He's a lad's lad and that's what I love about him

Lampard on Rooney

And contrary to the stereotype of 'Wazza' as brash, arrogant and stupid, Lampard revealed that there is much more depth to him than most would imagine.

"He's a confident boy but not over-confident," Lampard told 5 live. "I think there's a sensitive side to him. I've spent a lot of time with him, we get on very well and at the World Cup we'd sit in a room together and watch the other games.

"I don't think people understand, they just read the big headlines in the papers, particularly in the last few weeks, and get an impression of someone. He's a very sensitive lad, you can have a very good conversation about anything you want.

"I think he's a very cute, worldly lad for how young he is. He had no problem with relating to the older players. With Wayne, everyone's the same. He'd talk to David Beckham the same as he'd talk to a new player coming into the squad who plays for Stoke or Bolton. That's the beauty of him, I think, as a person."

Lampard also revealed that Rooney was instrumental in breaking down the cliques that existed in the England squad and caused tension among the players.

"He's a very social lad," said the Chelsea midfielder. "He crosses all the boundaries of factions within a squad that you always have, not in a bad way but there's always slight little groups and different teams when you turn up with England.

"From that very early stage, he flitted between everyone and had a mini-friendship with everyone. People who call him thick - it's just a lazy thing to say. He's sharp. The people who call him thick have a certain element of thickness about them. How can you call someone thick who you've never met?"

To find out more about Rooney, we travelled to his native city and spent a day in Croxteth, the tough estate he was born into and that shaped his personality.

UFC cage fighter Paul Kelly is familiar with the good and bad in 'Crocky'. He gave us a tour and it became clear that Rooney's boxing background wasn't just about the sport. Meanwhile, Derek Hatton, the former politician and scouse spokesman, explained how proving the world wrong is part of the DNA of scousers.

Bob Pendleton, the Everton scout who discovered Rooney as a nine-year-old on the public parks of Croxteth, also re-lived his experiences of the young player and his family.

And when asked to sum him up, Lampard could not have been more honest: "Confident, very good to be around, funny, and one you want next to you as a mate if you go to war or if you just want a laugh. He's a lad's lad and that's what I love about him."

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see also
Rooney heads to US for rehab work
05 Nov 10 |  Man Utd
Rooney signs new Man Utd contract
22 Oct 10 |  Man Utd

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