IF WAYNE ROONEY was working in any other walk of life, you’d look at a business like Everton and tell him not to touch the manager’s job with a bargepole.
This is a club which used to have a clear identity, used to over-achieve and which was widely admired inside football — not least by me.
In the six years since Farhad Moshiri bought the Toffees, though, it has felt as if they have been throwing enough mud at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
Their recruitment of players and managers has been expensive and scattergun. One year it was Sam Allardyce, the next it was Marco Silva — so where is the plan in that?
Rafa Benitez was always a strange appointment given his Liverpool connections, the fact that his style tends to be defensive and he inherited an imbalanced squad recruited by several managers.
But football is not a logical business. It’s like chalk and cheese to any other industry.
We are talking about Wayne Rooney, lifelong Evertonian and street footballer. And we’re talking about Everton, the People’s Club, and the prospect that they could appoint ‘one of their own’ to turn the club around.
I am a huge fan of Rooney. I can remember being at school and this 16-year-old kid — less than three years older than me — scoring a worldie against Arsenal’s Invincibles on his league debut.
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Then he tore it up at Euro 2004, moved to Manchester United and scored a hat-trick on his debut.
I can remember watching his TV programme, ‘Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker’.
He’d be chipping balls into skips, then someone would drop them out of first-floor windows and he’d control them out of the air. We’d do the same.
Some people are surprised that Rooney — now 36 — is doing such an impressive job in his first managerial job, in the toughest possible circumstances, with Derby in administration, with a huge points deduction and players being sold.
But I always felt he would go into management. I don’t know Wayne well but I think he is one of those people who absolutely NEEDS football.
He thrives on the dressing-room environment, the intensity and the madness of the professional game. I think he might be lost without all that.
So if he is offered the Everton job, of course he will take it. His stock is high at the moment, and rightfully so, but the opportunity might never come around again.
Everton is a club I’ve always identified with strongly and had a real affection for.
Like my club, Birmingham City, they live in the shadows of richer and more successful neighbours, but they are the working men’s club of their city.
As David Moyes called them, they were ‘The People’s Club’.
I made my Premier League debut at Goodison Park and I love the place.
Playing that first top-flight match there, I really felt ‘this is what it’s all about. I’ve arrived’.
It is a proper ground with a great atmosphere. They even have the same walk-on music as Watford, the ‘Z Cars’ theme.
TOFFEES LOST IDENTITY
Under Moyes, there was such a clear sense of identity and a great team spirit which usually saw them finish higher than their budget should have allowed them to.
You never looked forward to playing against the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill.
When I first played them, there was John Stones in defence and Ross Barkley in midfield. They were a high-energy side who were never going to give you an easy ride.
Over the last six years, Everton seem to have lost that identity, that togetherness.
They’ve signed a lot of players for £20million, £30m or more, who haven’t worked out — and a lot of them were experienced players too.
They have had to sell on a lot of players for major losses and will probably have to continue to do so.
Would they get back the £38m they paid for Alex Iwobi now?
There has not seemed to be any long-term vision.
As a result they have about ten senior midfielders in their squad but no one to replace striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin when he was injured.
I am not the biggest fan of Benitez, although I respect what he achieved at Liverpool.
The job he did at Newcastle was no more than ‘OK’ for me.
Then he went to China for the money and it felt like Everton was just one last stab at the Premier League.
If I look at a couple of my old Watford team-mates, Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucoure, I don’t think Benitez got the best out of them.
Richarlison is a high-energy flair player who was never likely to fit in too well under Benitez.
And Doucoure seemed to have had the shackles put on him. This is a player with the greatest lung capacity I’ve ever known and who is excellent at making late runs into the opposition box and scoring goals.
Under Benitez, he was just a holding midfielder and they weren’t playing to his strengths.
So if Rooney does get the gig, he will have a lot to sort out if he is going to transform fortunes and bring back that old buzz to Goodison Park.
He’s an inexperienced manager heading into a club — and a squad — with huge difficulties.
But this is football, this is emotion, this is Rooney and this is Everton.
It might just work out and I don’t think either side will be able to resist the temptation of making it happen.
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