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Fans Comment

Everton need to cultivate Rooney's media persona
Richard Ewart thinks Paul Heyward in the Telegraph has a point

11 September 2003

My eye was drawn to the headline on the ToffeeWeb home page regarding the Telegraph article on Wayne Rooney's continued absence from the media spotlight.  I expected to read a rant but in fact I read a considered and in my opinion very fair article on the subject.

Paul Hayward was not suggesting that Rooney be thrown to the media lions but he was saying that Everton need to be careful that the player is not over-protected.  If Rooney succeeds in the way that all Evertonians hope he succeeds, the clamour from the media will only get louder and Everton need to deal with that. 

Why not take up Hayward's suggestion of sitting Rooney down with some of the more senior and experienced football writers and let's hear what he has to say?  I have no idea how articulate Rooney is, but the answers he gave to fans' e.mailed questions on the official Everton website came across pretty well to me, allowing of course for the likelihood that they had been massaged prior to publication. 

I believe David Moyes is totally right to protect Rooney and the attack launched by the dreary Richard Keys on Sky last season was pathetic in the extreme.  Let's face it, however articulate or inarticulate Rooney may be, they don't come much more inarticulate than some of the football reporters on Sky and other channels who seem incapable of putting together a coherent question, so what chance would Rooney have under those conditions I wonder?

However I think the point that Everton are missing here is that a great sporting story is unfolding and a lot of people are interested in hearing it and reading about it.  As far as I am aware, Everton have a fairly sizeable media team, they have their internal TV, they have what passes for radio (albeit on the Internet only).  Why not use that to give Rooney the practice he needs in handling the media?  Once Everton had broadcast their own material, it could be released to the wider media.

In the mean time, if it isn't happening already, someone within the club should be giving Rooney media training so that, when he does step into the spotlight, he knows what to expect and how to respond.  Top business leaders go through this sort of thing just in case they have to appear on camera or on radio at some stage.  In Rooney's case it's not if he appears, but when and how often.

Referring back to Paul Hayward's article, I think it was a measured and thoughtful response to the situation.  Of course he would love the exclusive with Rooney, so he may have a hidden agenda, but I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. 

So in conclusion, Everton and the FA shouldn't hide Rooney away.  Let the media have a piece of him but only in a managed way, so steer clear of the post match off-the-cuff stuff.  It is Everton's responsibility to ensure that he can handle the media and feel comfortable doing it.  They can't keep him under wraps forever and they need to prepare for very real possibilities that might happen sooner rather than later can we expect Rooney to remain mute when he rolls up to collect his Young Player of the Year Award for which he must be a hot favourite this season?

I should declare my hand.  I am a journalist, currently based in Australia after many years with the BBC in England.  I cringe when I hear/see some of the TV/radio football reporters in action with their inane comments, their never-ceasing ability to state the obvious and steer away from the controversial.  So, to be honest, if Everton take the trouble to groom Rooney correctly, he could beat most of them at their own game. 

I don't suppose it's high on David Moyes's list of priorities but the longer Rooney is hidden away, the harder the more unscrupulous members of the media will dig for a story to plug the void.  Such a story might appear without a grain of truth in it but it could have a serious impact on Rooney and the club fans of opposing clubs can be cruel.  The best way to deflect bad media is to feed them on the good stuff. 

Richard Ewart

2003 ToffeeWeb


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