The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Super Rooney remains mortal

I shook Wayne Rooney by the hand on Wednesday and his skin was very much like yours and mine. When we exchanged greetings his voice sounded almost human. He politely signed a programme and a shirt for my godson and his writing was actually legible.

Some famous people are such a disappointment when you meet them in the flesh!

I am not trying to pretend for one moment that the 17-year-old Everton forward is normal or ordinary. Whenever he is discussed in football company the room echoes to the kind of exaggerated oohs and aahs you associate with those camp suit fitters in The Fast Show.

He is a talent way ahead of his years. Ron Atkinson is saying he should already be an England player, and you can see why. The problem is that we are in danger of treating him more like a Neptune or Pluto player.

During my boyhood I lived half a mile from George Best for a while. If friends were staying, I would take them down the road to see for themselves. There were invariably other rubber-neckers gathered on the verge outside his unusual house.

Same neighbourhood, different planet. It was a zoo with no closing hours. Unwittingly, I found myself studying Rooney intently at our first meeting this week.

When he appeared at a television awards ceremony with his loosened tie and chewing gum, he looked only too human for most. A couple of flying challenges and suddenly he now has a temperament.

To cap it all, when I was at Goodison on New Years Day, a know-it-all steward whispered that Wayne has a younger brother called Graham who is even better.

The best young talent that Arsene Wenger and others have ever seen in this country may not be the best young talent in the Rooney household. Next thing you know, they will be sending in UN inspectors to see if anything fishy is going on.

Playing the part of protective guardian in this far-fetched fairytale is David Moyes. I interviewed him about Rooney’s booking against Manchester City, and halfway through my question I saw his eyes narrow and a look of irritation fall over his face.

The manager of Everton is fast becoming the manager of one Everton player. It is a task that he is taking on dutifully and conscientiously. It is not fair that he finds himself fighting back wave after wave of interest in Rooney’s progress, but it is inevitable.

Fairness went out of the window when Rooney was blessed with such unequal helpings of natural talent. You cannot help but be fascinated and intrigued by his potential. His career will now take its unnatural course, and all that Moyes can do is resist interviewers and sponsors and maybe England managers and try to slow the bandwagon down.

It is a selfless and thankless task which will eventually catch up with him. We can only hope that Rooney is ready to fend for himself when it does, or he might just become Graham Rooney’s brother.

He looked like a 17-year-old again on Wednesday. He didn’t play badly, but City played him better. A couple of weeks ago, Rooney walked into a west London estate agents in his tracksuit. He was just passing the time on a stroll back to the team hotel before a game at Chelsea.

The office staff took him to be a prospective burglar casing the homes of millionaires and asked him to leave. Even David Moyes could not have delivered a more telling reminder that he is still human. Long may we allow him to remain so.

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