| Rooney the writer
London, March 10: Wayne Rooney, the England and Manchester United footballing sensation, is not yet 21 but he has made publishing history by signing a 12-year contract with HarperCollins to “write” a minimum of five books for which he will receive a guaranteed '5 million plus royalties.
Many will sneer at the news and joke that Rooney will now have to learn to read and write but his astonishing rise in English and world football reveals much about how British society has changed ' for better and for worse.
Rooney’s wealth will convince a new generation of impressionable British children that the route to success lies through football ' and not academic grind.
In the publishing world, everyone understands that Rooney will not have to put pen to paper. He will be allocated a skilful football journalist who will put words into his mouth.
Among the current generation of British sports personalities, the Cambridge-educated Michael Atherton, the former England cricket captain, is one of the few thought able to write his own books. Even Andrew Flintoff cannot write his own books.
Matters became ridiculous when supermodel Naomi Campbell had a novel, Black Swan, ghost-written for her in 1996. (“I just did not have time to sit down and write a book.”)
HarperCollins won the deal with Rooney against stiff competition, thereby revealing much about British publishing as well. A high proportion of the books that sell are ghosted on behalf of “celebrities”, who are packaged for a receptive market.
David Beckham currently holds the record for the UK’s best-selling sporting autobiography. His life story, My Side, has sold more than 500,000 copies.
Rooney’s first volume, due to hit the shelves at the end of July, will be an autobiography of his life so far, up to and including this year’s World Cup. The follow-up books will cover the rest of his playing career.
There will also be a Wayne Rooney Annual published in the autumn, aimed at younger fans.
Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins, said: “As a footballer, Wayne Rooney has broken records. I think this book deal probably breaks another. I can’t think of any book deal like it.”
Michael Doggart, publishing director of imprint HarperSport and the man who negotiated the deal, added: “I believe this is a unique deal in publishing history.”
Rooney said: “Hopefully, there will be lots of things to read about. I’ll be talking about my life in football and other things as well. There will be a few surprises in there.”
He explained that despite his fame he wished to retain the common touch: “When they talk to me, people say, ‘I didn’t expect you to be how you are.’ I’m just a normal young lad who plays football.”
Rooney admitted he had not yet read Beckham’s book but revealed that J.K. Rowling was never far from his bedside table.
“Obviously, I’ve read a few of the Harry Potter books,” he said. “The best book I’ve read is a biography of Muhammad Ali. I have time to read before games. We go to hotels and there’s a lot of travelling.”
Wayne Mark Rooney was born in Croxteth, Liverpool, on October 24, 1985, into a working class family and lived with his parents, Jeanette and Wayne, a dinner lady and a labourer respectively, in a three-bedroom council house. He attended the local De La Salle Roman Catholic School with his younger brothers, Graham and John, but football was always his passion.
“When I was younger I didn’t really read books, to be honest,” he acknowledged. “I was playing football instead. I used to be out on the street training, then bed, then school.”
He was only nine when he was spotted by Everton scout Bob Pendleton playing for boys’ club Copplehouse in the local Walton and Kirkdale Junior League. In his last season with them he scored 99 goals before joining the Everton academy. He was playing for the Under-19 side when still only 15.
Rooney made his Premiership debut for Everton at 16, becoming the youngest ever England player less than a year later, and making the transfer to Manchester United in 2004.
Although his on-field swearing and off-field visits to brothels have got him into trouble, the England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has compared Rooney to the young Pele and sees him as a future England captain.
“I really think he has a future as a leader,” predicted Eriksson. “He has grown as a person.”
Rooney’s girlfriend, Coleen McLoughlin, 19, who lives with him in a '3.5-million house in Cheshire, has signed a deal of her own to produce a book on fashion and “lifestyle”.
Asked what she keeps on her bedside table, Rooney blurted out: “The phone.”