Wayne Rooney: skill development
England men’s record goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, explains how he went from casual kickabouts to one of the country's most skilful players.
Rooney. At 16, he was one to watch. At 18, he was a household name.
Here, he reflects on how his playing journey made him a Three Lions favourite.
Recognise your weakness
At a young age, Rooney played with much older players who had a physical advantage. However, understanding himself and his opponents helped him to develop his game.
"I think the first real big influence was Colin Harvey [former Everton coach]. I played for the U19s for Colin when I was 14, and that's really when the tactical part of the game came in.
"He made me realise I was a lot smaller than the U19 players. So, I really had to focus on how I found space. And how I don't have as much physical contact with the opposition because they were too strong for me.
"That's when I started playing as a number ten, rather than a number eight or nine. And that's something Colin wanted me to do. I also used to study videos of Jari Litmanen [former Ajax forward] quite a lot to see how he moved to create space for himself."
To master a skill, you need the opportunity to practise. For Rooney, taking extra time after training to work on his game was vital.
"I think it was 2009/2010; I didn't score many headed goals. I spent about ten months practising after training, just working on my heading. Then I went on a run of scoring 15 headed goals in a row.
"So, I believe that the more time you put in, the more practice you put in, whatever that is – whether in my case, heading, whether it's your weak foot, free-kicks, penalties – then you'll really improve.
"I always worked on free-kicks and penalties at the end of the sessions. But also, I'd go and take five corner kicks, five wide free-kicks... I'd practice shooting from the halfway line. I always felt there's going to be a chance in the game that I'm going to be taking a corner or a wide free-kick, or I'd have the opportunity to shoot from distance, so I tried to cover everything which I felt I'd be involved in."