The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - PUZZLE TIME -


It started, as so many bro­mances do these days, with a tweet. Spy­ing that Wayne Rooney was on his first ever trip to Los Angeles this week, I sent him a wel­come mes­sage: ‘If you need a Hol­ly­wood guide, I’m here and avail­able.’

I’ve never met Mr Rooney be­fore but we’ve struck up a cu­ri­ous bond on Twit­ter based on mu­tual, re­lent­less mick­ey­tak­ing. (Ba­si­cally, I tease him about stuff like his hair transplant and he shuts me up by send­ing mis­sives like, ‘Hi mate, how are you?’ within min­utes of Manch­ester United beat­ing Ar­se­nal 8-2.)

The Eng­land striker, nurs­ing his wounds from their dis­ap­point­ing de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships, sent me a pri­vate mes­sage: ‘Let me know if you want some food one night.’

So, I sug­gested we take our wives to Soho House in West Hol­ly­wood, play­ground to the stars and David Beck­ham’s favourite wa­ter­ing hole. It has a rooftop ter­race res­tau­rant lit­tered with 12ft olive trees. ‘The ser­vice should be bet­ter than the kind you re­ceived in the Eu­ros,’ I re­as­sured him.

At 8pm sharp, the Rooneys ar­rived. He was smaller than I imag­ined but stocky and with a hand­shake like a vice. Coleen, strik­ingly at­trac­tive in the flesh, was im­me­di­ately warm and friendly. Din­ner lasted four hours. Wayne was very funny and very frank.

He told me a few things that would make head­lines around the world but they’ll re­main, as he re­quested, be­tween us. (I can be dis­creet; I just have to re­ally force my­self.) His an­swers to my less con­tentious, fan-style ques­tions were no less il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

‘ With all the pres­sure, do you still ac­tu­ally en­joy play­ing football?’

‘ Oh God, yeah! I love it! There’s noth­ing bet­ter than walk­ing out in front of big crowds to play It’s the big­gest buzz you could ever have.’

‘ What would you have done if you hadn’t been a foot­baller?’

‘I’d have prob­a­bly ended up a builder or elec­tri­cian like most of my mates.’

‘Who was the best you ever played against?’

‘Zi­dane.’ Then he smirked. ‘But I nut­megged him! Best mo­ment of my life!’

‘Who’s your best friend in the game?’ I asked. He smiled. ‘You’re not go­ing to like this…’ ‘Try me…’ ‘Ash.’ ‘Which Ash?’ ‘Ash­ley Cole.’ Ar­se­nal fans have loathed Cole since he quit on us for Chelsea in a row over a £5,000-a-week pay rise. ‘Are you se­ri­ous?’ ‘Yes. He’s noth­ing like what you guys think. Ash is a re­ally sound guy and has been a proper friend to me.’

As I mulled over this shock­ing reve­la­tion, he added: ‘I’d take a bul­let for him.’

Coleen nearly choked on her wine. ‘Do be­have, Wayne! You wouldn’t take a bul­let for him.’

‘I would! And he would for me, too. We’d die for each other!’

‘ I’d be happy to fire the bul­let at Ash­ley to test the the­ory,’ I sug­gested. Wayne laughed.

‘I told him I was hav­ing din­ner with you tonight.’ ‘What did he say?’ ‘He said, “Tell him he’s a **** from me.”’ It was my turn to laugh. Young Ash­ley is per­fectly en­ti­tled to feel that way af­ter all the stick I’ve given him.

Wayne’s a sur­pris­ingly quiet, softly spo­ken lad in per­son. ‘I’m much calmer now than I used to be,’ he said. ‘Peo­ple see the way I am on the pitch and think I’m like that off it, too, but I’m not.

‘I used to go out all the time, drink too much and get into trou­ble. I just like a nice, quiet time these days, no bother.’

Coleen agreed: ‘He’s a dif­fer­ent man now — he re­ally is.’

‘ What’s been the main rea­son?’ I asked. ‘She has,’ he said, look­ing at his wife. What­ever prob­lems they’ve had in the past, let me say this: I’ve rarely seen a mar­ried cou­ple more ob­vi­ously in love than the Rooneys. They first met in Crox­teth, Liver­pool, when they were 12 and be­gan dat­ing at 16.

‘Our fam­i­lies have been so close for a long time,’ he said. ‘Col’s un­cle was my best man and her maid of hon­our is my cousin.’ As the food ar­rived, Coleen said: ‘You must have been pleased about the na­tional an­them.’

I’ve cam­paigned reg­u­larly on Twit­ter for Wayne to sing the British an­them af­ter cam­eras re­vealed that he was

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