Kevin Campbell’s Funny First Impression of Wayne Rooney

Kevin Campbell’s Funny First Impression of Wayne Rooney

A hilarious video clip of the late Kevin Campbell revealing his first impression of a 14-year-old Wayne Rooney has resurfaced following the former Everton and Arsenal striker’s death at the age of 54.

Campbell’s passing was confirmed on Saturday morning after a battle with illness. Rooney paid a heartfelt tribute to his former Toffees team-mate, with the pair having played together for the Everton first team between 2002 and 2004.

But Campbell spotted Rooney’s talent even earlier during a reserve game, despite admitting he initially had doubts about the striker.  

‘I got on the coach and I saw this kid, ears out here and stuff,’ Campbell told the UndrTheCosh podcast.

‘And I thought he was one of the coaching staff’s son or nephew. I didn’t know who he was, he was a baby! So we get to the stadium, he’s in the dressing room getting changed. I’m thinking “what’s going on here?” Taff [former Everton reserve manager Andy Holden] just said “he’s starting”. 

Kevin Campbell (bottom) and Wayne Rooney (top) played together for the Everton first team between 2002 and 2004

But Campbell revealed he spotted Rooney's talent even earlier during a reserve game

But Campbell revealed he spotted Rooney’s talent even earlier during a reserve game

WARNING – EXPLICIT LANGUAGE 

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‘I just looked at Andy, I said “what the f***?!” We’re playing against Southport, men. I said “where does he play?” He said “he’s playing up front with you”. I said “b*******”! He said, “Kev, treat him like you would a first team player”. 

‘So I’m warming up and stuff, I said “he’s not got a bad touch on him”, pings a few balls. I thought “alright, OK, we’ll see”. The game has started, hat comes off, mate. At 14, I’d never seen anything like it mate. Football brain, touch, power, pace. They were trying to hit him and just bouncing off him. 

‘I was thinking “what the f*** is this?” He’s 14 years old! He’s bouncing big, non-league, hairy-a*** centre halves, he’s bouncing them, twisting them up, playing one-twos. He scored two goals in the first half. He’s got the ball, he’s passed to me, I’ve put it in the space, he’s outpaced them, bang, bottom corner. Looked over at Taff. He went “I told you!”

Campbell continued to wax lyrical about Rooney, revealing he sat on the bench rather than taking a shower in the second half after being taken off so that he could watch more of the prodigious talent. 

‘I scored one, he put me through, eye of a needle pass. What can’t he do? F***ing hell! Then the next one he powers his way through, bang, top corner,’ Campbell said.

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‘I [go and] sit on the bench, mate, because what I’m witnessing… They move him from striker to wide left. Spraying balls like you wouldn’t believe, I looked at Taff, Taff looked at me, and we both just shook our heads.’

Campbell came through the Arsenal academy, playing alongside some of the best talent in the country in the late 1980s. 

But when asked if anyone compared to Rooney when he first burst onto the scene, Campbell simply repeated ‘no’, leaving the podcast hosts in fits of laughter.

Campbell admitted he could not wait to tell his senior team-mates about Rooney the next day at training, as he warned them that the youngster’s potential was ‘f***ing frightening’, and that he was capable of joining the first team straight away.

His team-mates laughed at Campbell’s suggestion, but he was adamant that Rooney would shine as he added: ‘You heard it from me, this kid is special. I’ve not seen anything like him.’

Ian Wright was also visibly emotional as he paid tribute to former team-mate Campbell on TV

Ian Wright was also visibly emotional as he paid tribute to former team-mate Campbell on TV

Campbell’s assessment proved to be spot on, with Rooney going on to captain his country, becoming England men’s most capped outfield player.

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He also held the goalscoring record until being overtaken by Harry Kane last year, while he got a big move to Manchester United in 2004 and went on to win five Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Red Devils.

Campbell’s admiration for Rooney was clear after just one half of football, and the respect was mutual. 

Rooney posted a picture of himself on top of Campbell’s shoulders during their Everton days on X shortly after news of his death broke, and wrote: ‘Absolutely devastated to hear the news about Kev. 

‘Thinking of all his family and friends. Kev was a great team mate but more importantly a brilliant person who helped me a lot in my earlier years.’

Further tributes were also paid to the immensely popular Campbell on Saturday, with Ian Wright fighting to hold back tears when discussing his relationship with his ex-Arsenal team-mate during ITV’s coverage of Spain’s Euro 2024 clash with Croatia. 

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