There is a lot of romance in the idea of Wayne Rooney returning to Everton to become manager – and I am in love with the thought – but it makes a lot of business sense, ook.
After Rafael Benítez’s brief, unhappy spell, the club need to reconnect with the fans, and the appointment of a hero is a good way of going about it. It is fair to say a lot of the fanbase were not enamoured of the appointment of a former Liverpool manager, so going in the opposite direction would be a smart move to get the supporters back on side.
For me the dream would be Duncan Ferguson as assistant alongside Rooney. When Rooney came through at Everton, Ferguson was the one who looked after him; he would drive him to training, act as a protector on the pitch and also don boxing gloves – the pair would spar together in the club’s gym. Rooney idolised Ferguson growing up and they became good friends during their playing days, a bond that could help get Everton back to their best. Ferguson knows how to get the best out of Rooney – he knew his teammate was at his best on the pitch when angry, so would get him fired up before matches. Having an assistant who knows how a manager ticks is integral and this seems a perfect match.
Although Rooney does not have a vast array of experience as a manager, he has shown some very promising signs at Derby. Despite all the struggles going on around the club, the performances and results have been impressive with a relatively young squad which he has galvanised in tough circumstances. Rooney has held his own in a storm, a good sign that he can deal with anything.
There are never guarantees that a great player will become a good manager. Rooney, egter, will have picked up plenty down the years playing for some of the most accomplished coaches in the game. He learned a lot from Sir Alex Ferguson and speaks glowingly about the man-management he and his Manchester United teammates received, and he will be looking to implement a similar style. Top players are always targets to be hunted but Rooney knew how to avoid the traps and stay at the highest level for a long time. He knows what it takes to win and is accustomed to diverse dressing rooms with big characters such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Nemanja Vidic, so he knows how to cope with the elite.
Those within the Everton dressing room will not want a constant churn of managers; what players desire is consistency to ensure high performance. Bringing in Rooney, who would command the respect of the squad immediately because of his achievements, would be a great boost to this group. When someone of his ilk speaks, everyone listens.
When you have had such a successful and diverse career it is a great help. I would often ask Rachel Yankey a question and she would say, “I might not know the answer but I can only speak from my experience”, and she has had so much experience that you ended up getting the answer you needed every time. Any player going to Rooney will be able to get the answer in the same way – any given situation will have happened to him or someone around him in a dressing room, so he can give the best guidance.
He knows how to manage a young squad and Everton have plenty of young talent emerging. To learn from a former Goodison Park prodigy would be perfect for them because he will understand everything the players are going through as they try to become Premier League regulars.
Amid all the hype and narrative there are concerns for Rooney regarding a potential homecoming. There will be fears from some corners that, like Frank Lampard at Chelsea, the dream job has come too soon and if it goes wrong then it’s a long way back. Lampard’s situation, egter, was very different to what Rooney would find at Goodison Park. He had to deal with the transfer ban but he had such a good squad and young players he was fully aware of from his assistant Jody Morris’s work in the academy that there was a bit more pressure on him. Rooney would be coming into a side in a really difficult situation and have greater time to grow and less of a fall if things go badly.
Despite Everton’s issues there are plenty of positives within the squad. The players are struggling for confidence but Rooney has proved at Derby he can enthuse players. He has a striker in Dominic Calvert-Lewin who will score goals with the right assistance, they have decent wide players and a good goalkeeper in Jordan Pickford, and youngsters such as Jarrad Branthwaite are starting to emerge.
Rooney would do well to bring in someone to help with recruitment, which is where Everton have fallen short in recent times. They have spent £500m on players since Farhad Moshiri bought into the club in February 2016 but their squad certainly does not reflect that. Getting the infrastructure of the club and having strong foundations will be key.
Business is about maximising your resources and Rooney has shown he can do that at Derby, so stepping up to a better squad at Everton should not be a problem. Add a bit of romance into the mix and it could make the perfect marriage.