Exclusive: Jamie Carragher interviews Wayne Rooney - 'I want to manage Everton'
There comes a point in every footballer’s career when the end creeps closer and you consider a dreaded question: what next?
Wayne Rooney has much more to offer as an Everton player but as we sit down to discuss his achievements in the game he is at his most impassioned when contemplating his future.
“The main thing I want to have a go at is management,” he tells me.
“I would love to stay at Everton in a coaching role or hopefully manager one day. It is something I want to do – to stay involved, but if that is not possible I will look to see where the opportunities are for me. I am determined to become a manager.
“From next season I want to be doing some coaching sessions with the Under 14s at Everton. It would be good to have all my badges by the time I have finished, but it is also about having the chance to carry on when I have so I can get straight into coaching.”
With Steven Gerrard taking his first steps into management at Liverpool's academy, what chance he and Rooney boxing on the touchline in a Merseyside derby?
“Ha ha. I hope so,” he laughs. “Obviously my first objective is to do well as a player over the next few years. "Then I hope the role can grow into something beyond that. It is something I will talk about with the club when they and I feel the time is right.
“It was Neil Bailey at Manchester United who started me on the ‘B’ licence. We brought in a school from Ashton in Manchester and I coached them at United’s training ground. I took the session on my own and found it very natural. I have never been shy to get up and speak in front of my team mates or anyone. It was comfortable.”
With this ambition comes a concern. It must be a worry for the Football Association that top-level internationals like Rooney see obstacles as much as assistance for those harbouring coaching aspirations.
It means many, like me, go down the punditry path - media opportunities are more accessible, and less stressful, than those in coaching.
“The FA are not happy with the (lack of) ex-England players going into coaching, and rightly so, but they have to do more to make the option attractive,” Rooney says.
“The problem nowadays is that most players who have played at the very top level don’t need to do it for the money, so it has to be a motivation to want to do it.
“I know players who look at that process and what they see is five or six years to get all the badges. Do they really need that? It is a problem. You won’t get enough players in.
“The FA has to look at that. We do the ‘B’ level coaching licence and, really, anyone can do it. Honestly. Anyone who has played to a level – any Premier League level – they can do that with their eyes shut.
“Imagine you have never kicked a ball in your life and you decide you want to be a coach, you will start on your ‘B’ licence the same as someone who has played 120 games for their country.
“Is that right? Should we really start at the same level? In that situation, with all the knowledge we as internationals have gained, it has to mean a bit more.”
I know what Wayne is talking about and think there is a danger of misinterpretation. “You're not suggesting top players don't need coaching courses, though?” I ask.
“No, no. That’s not the point,” he agrees. “I am not saying you have to skip coaching badges. I understand you need to learn more advanced coaching skills, but it is that first bit I am talking about.
“It is the entry level – that first step that takes longer than it needs to. Is that really necessary for someone with so much experience already?
“They need to be more lenient with the top players – if that is what they want – in terms of recognising what they need to be attracted to go into coaching.”
It surprises me how much Rooney has caught the coaching bug, and how advanced he is in his post-playing plans.
Like me at the same stage of my career, Rooney has a back-up option he is exploring. His stint on Sky’s Monday Night Football was widely praised and will open further opportunities for punditry.
Many were taken aback by how assured Wayne was in front of camera but none of those who know him well were shocked.
“TV is obviously interesting. When I see you all on TV I will say, ‘He is good or he is s---,’” he says.
“When you get to a certain stage of your career you play the game thinking in a different way. You do think like a manager on the pitch. I play that way now thinking ‘He should be over here, and he should be there.’
“If I was full-time on the TV I am sure I would get better at it and bring something to it like you and Gaz (Neville).
"I've also got some business interests - I've been working on a device called Swellaway which helps athletes recover from injuries and comes out this year.”
When I turn the discussion to Everton, Wayne’s pride and delight at being granted his wish to go back to Goodison is obvious. I put it to him he had some unfinished business at his old club.
“I always had in the back of my mind I wanted to go back,” he says. “Over the last two or three years I went back to Goodison with my eldest lad. I was just thinking this is the right time. I wanted my kids to see me play for Everton. It was a natural fit for me.
"Obviously there were others offers – offers from abroad – but when I spoke to Paul (Stretford) my agent I said to him, ‘Make sure you get that done!’ It was the only real place I wanted to go.”
“I will always be grateful to Bill (Kenwright), Ronald (Koeman) and everybody else at the club who helped make it happen.”
“I remember your first Merseyside derby,” I say to him. “You were on the bench and the Everton fans were singing, ‘Rooney is going to get you’ to The Kop.”
“Yep, it finished 0-0," Rooney says. "I remember Stevie (Gerrard’s) tackle on Gary Naismith. I also remember Chris Kirkland was in goal.
“I remember going through and hitting him really hard through a tackle. My hip was in agony and I was thinking, ‘There is no way I will come off.’ He was down for ages. Then I hit the bar.”
“There must have been regrets when you left the first time?” I suggest.
He agrees. “There were things I had been dreaming of I had not done for Everton.
“What I really regretted was I had not scored against Liverpool for Everton. I did it for Manchester United but as a youngster it was never a dream of mine to score at Anfield for Manchester United.
“I was an Everton fan, so as a young Everton fan I was dreaming of scoring at Anfield for Everton. When I came back I was thinking about the chance to do that. So to do it this year fulfilled that.”
I can't resist a follow-up to this.
“Does that penalty in December really count? Because Dominic Calvert-Lewin dived, didn't he?” I ask.
“It was a clear pen,” he instantly responds.
But what about winning trophies at Everton? What about qualifying for the Champions League?
I argue that realistically Everton can only aspire to finish seventh in given the current balance of power in the Premier League.
I see that competitiveness in Wayne stir. There is an obvious irritation not only at how Everton are perceived, but even how the club has often perceived itself.
He wants to be part of a radical shift in attitude.
“We need to change the mindset at Everton,” he says. “Yes, seventh is a position we can finish in this season. That is respectable. But to finish above the top six at the moment we are going to have to have one of our best seasons and one of those must have a bad season. We have to change it.
“We don’t want to going into a season saying, ‘We want to finish seventh because it is going to be difficult to break into the top six.
“We are bringing players in because we want to break into the top four. Everton is a big football club and that is where the ambition has to be. Over the next few years that ambition will start to change with the right personnel coming in. “Hopefully I can have some influence in helping the club to do that.”
It is clear this, allied to the obvious sentimentality, was the main reason he returned home but with the swift demise of Koeman there were fears it could have gone horribly wrong in this first season.
“Listen, that Leicester game was a big win for us,” he says. “When you are on 28 points, even though it looks like you are a few points from the relegation zone, you can get dragged down there. I have seen that with other teams. We were on a bad run and had not won for six or seven games. That win gave us a bit comfort to take you away from it, but then you have Arsenal after that. I still think realistically we can finish seventh now. That has to be our target for the rest of the season.”
A change in role also excites him.
“I always knew at the back end of my career I would drop back into midfield,” he says.
“I started watching Paul Scholes closely in training. Analysed Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos. They don’t go around sprinting the whole game, getting in peoples’ faces. They are players who control a tempo of a game. I knew I could go into that role and I believed in my own ability to do it. I still feel I have more to give if playing that right way.
“Playing deeper suits me. I can get on the ball a bit more and have lads around me with more legs. I am the one who can get us playing and moving the ball. From a personal perspective I think I can score more and get to 15 goals. But I have never been a player just happy because I am scoring. I want to help the team. If the team is not doing well I can’t take positives from my own performance.”
As we dissect Wayne’s career we cannot ignore England. On Saturday, the visit of Crystal Palace to Goodison reacquaints Rooney with Roy Hodgson, the former England manager who shared his lowest point as an international.
The defeat to Iceland was the beginning of the end of his England career.
“With England he did alright but it was just when we go to the tournaments, as a team, we were not good enough,” he said.
“You can say he should have done this or done that, but we did have a lot of young players coming through and I hope they will benefit going to Russia. But at the time, we just weren’t good enough.
“I felt for us all. We had an opportunity to beat Iceland to go through. I can’t explain it. You accept losing to the better teams. But when you lose to Iceland it was horrible. We panicked. We lost our shape and made it harder for ourselves. He has done a great job at Palace.”
For all the turbulence he has seen Hodgson and others go through, it has not put Wayne off management . Having seen his determination in full force as a player since his first Merseyside derby as a 16-year-old, don’t bet against him making a similar impact in the technical area.
“Football is something I have done all my life. It is what I know,” he says. “I don’t think it would be right to walk away and not share that experience with the next generation of players.”
It was great to have Wayne in the studio this week, but I agree. We have to do our utmost to keep players like him in the game.