Wayne Rooney was barely 19 years old when he made his dream transfer. The then top talent from Everton, where he had made his debut in the Premier League three years earlier, had caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. They brought him to Old Trafford in 2004. Rooney almost immediately became a starting player for the English record champion and became the next big thing mentioned in England, but his success also had a dark side.
In the BBC podcast ‘Seven’, hosted by former rugby player Rob Burrow, Rooney says that he found it difficult to cope with the pressure that came with the life of a young English football star at Manchester United. “Alcohol was my escape from the pressure,” he confesses. “I felt really deep. I had to deal with difficult moments, both on and off the field, and alcohol was my outlet. When I was in my early twenties, I would sometimes sit at home for days without going outside. At those times I would drink endlessly until I almost passed out. I didn’t know how else to deal with it.”
Eighteen months ago, when he was coach of English second division club Derby County, Rooney already revealed details about his addiction during his career. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It could have been girls, it could have been drunk driving, which to my great regret I have often done. But my biggest fear was that I would kill someone else or myself because of my reckless behavior. That’s a very scary thought.”
Rooney admits that he was offered help at the time, but he did not accept it. His pride took over. “There were people I could have talked to about my problems, but I chose not to. I wanted to deal with my problems myself. Ten or fifteen years ago I couldn’t walk into a dressing room and say, ‘I have an alcohol problem, I’m struggling with my mental health.’ That just didn’t work. So I chose to keep my secrets to myself.”
It is a choice that Rooney regrets to this day. “If you don’t accept help, you can end up in a deep hole. That was the case for me for a few years. Fortunately, I am now no longer afraid to talk to people about my issues.” However, Rooney never saw himself as an alcohol addict, rather as one binge drinker. Rooney eventually played 559 games in the Manchester United shirt and scored 253 times. He also made 120 appearances and scored 53 goals for the England national team. Rooney is currently coach of the English second division club Birmingham City. “My alcohol problems are really under control now. That has to be the case, as the father of four sons who look up to me and head coach of a major club.”
Rooney is not the only English (former) footballer who struggled with alcohol addiction. Andy Carroll (34), ex-striker of Liverpool and West Ham and currently working for Amiens, also had to deal with it for a long time during his career. “I used to be a heavy drinker. That has tarnished my name and I don’t like it. But that’s the old me. I have regrets looking back on it. Maybe I could have avoided certain injuries,” Carroll, a nine-time England international, told ‘Daily Mail’ in 2017. Last summer, Carroll tested at Club Brugge, but a transfer did not happen.
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