When I said I was going to be interviewing Wayne Rooney, I got a whole host of responses:
‘Ask him to throw the match this weekend.’
‘Ask him for tickets to the game.’
‘Poke him in the eye.’
‘Shake his hand for me.’
and so on. Whether you love him, admire him, hate him or feel cold indifference towards him, pretty much everyone has heard of, and has an opinion about, Wayne Rooney.
I’m no football fan (even if I have been to see two full games in the past twelve months), but when you meet someone so unbelievably famous it’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy. Rooney is so famous that either he had no one around him (after all, what kind of small talk do you make with someone who doesn’t know anything about you, but about whom you know all kinds of random and incidental details?) or loads of people around him, all clamouring for his photograph and his autograph. Nothing inbetween. At first he kept beckoning Jonny Evans to get in the pictures with him, but Rooney was the main event, leaving Evans looking like a bit of a gooseberry on a first date.
Being near someone so well-known is almost hypnotic. You find your gaze constantly turning towards them, checking where they are in the room, wondering what you could talk to them about. I’d already had my chance to ask questions. In fact I sat literally in arms length of him, and still the whole time he was there I kept mental tabs on him.
Chatting to one of the guests, he showed me the autograph he’d just managed to get. He was flushed with excitement, and I realised that I was excited that I had his autograph too. And a bit proud, because mine was the first of the evening and written with a fluid hand, whereas this guest’s was more than a bit shaky. But I kept my pride to myself, and made the appropriate ‘Oo wow’ noises.
It’s four days later. Man Utd lost to Man City at the weekend, hopeless without Rooney. I’m still not a football fan. But I suspect I’m going to be dining out on this one event, and this picture of the bit of Rooney I got in pen on a postcard for my nephew for a long time yet.