Wayne Rooney shocked the sporting world twice this week by revealing his desire to leave Manchester United before a dramatic change of heart led to him signing a new five-year contract.
There had been no indications of the England striker's preferred destination should he have left United, but what would Evertonians have made of an unlikely return to Goodison Park by Rooney?
JMU Journalism went onto the streets of the city this week asking Everton fans if they would want Rooney to come back to the club where he made his name... and opinions were deeply divided.
The Croxteth youngster was written into Toffee folklore at the age of 16 in 2002, when he curled a 30-yard wonder goal against Arsenal to become the youngest scorer in Premier League history. The boyhood Blue went on to score 15 times in 67 appearances for Everton and once famously celebrated a strike for the youth team by revealing a t shirt underneath his jersey that read “once a blue always a blue”.
But Rooney turned his back on the team he supported all
his life by controversially signing for Manchester United in
Since then, Evertonians have never made a secret of their
hatred towards Rooney, booing and jeering him at every
possible opportunity on his visits to Goodison Park.
When the tabloids exposed his lurid private life antics earlier
this season, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson rested
Rooney for their Premier League encounter at Everton
rather than expose him to the abuse he was certain to get.
An ill-fated legal dispute with Everton manager David
Moyes also did nothing to help his cause with the fans,
and perhaps the ultimate insult came when Rooney kissed
the Manchester United badge in front of the Gwladys Street.
However, the prospect of a move back to Merseyside posed an interesting hypothetical question. No doubt other offers for Rooney would have been both lucrative and plentiful, but in the fans' eyes would his undoubted quality outweigh his controversial history with Everton if he chose to return?
Evertonian Chris Lloyd, 31, from Halewood would welcome back the England hit man: “Rooney is a class act and our fans who boo him should forgive him now. No Everton fan wouldn't be excited seeing Rooney in the royal blue jersey."
This opinion is echoed by Andrew Reader, 23, from Everton who thinks Rooney has matured in his time away from Goodison: "I'd be happy at the moment, but five years ago I wouldn't have wanted it. He seems to have aged well and grown up a lot since his days at Everton."
However, there are also many Everton fans who simply won’t forgive Rooney for rejecting the club six years ago, along with all that has happened since then.
William Swann, 74, from the Wirral admits he could not accept him back regardless of the world-class talent he has become: "No. He left and once you leave Everton you aren't an Evertonian anymore. He went up to the Everton fans and kissed the Man United badge, which is ludicrous and horrible. He kissed the Man U badge! I can't forgive him for that."
It became apparent that the verdict from Everton fans was sharply divided on whether or not they would welcome Rooney back to the club. A selection of the views we gathered can be read in the comments box below. Some were not suitable for publication, but overall opinion was split roughly 50-50.
What is undeniable though, is that the player had the potential to become a true Everton legend before he went to Old Trafford. But for some, the events that have transpired since he quit Merseyside have left too much of a bitter taste in the mouth to approve of a return for the prodigal son.
Additional reporting by: Christopher Bratt; Jonathan Bridge; Rory Cringle; Jamie Allen; Sinead Cunningham; Jess Etherington; Rachael Bentham; Kevin Carey; Sanna Zahid; Michaela Shaw; Amber Hughes; Sophie Marsden; Ryan McCann; Emma Kemmery; Arild Skjaeveland; Patrick Hemus; David Williamson; Josh Killner; Sam McDonnell; Daniel Farrell; Paul Collins; Joel Sanderson-Murray & Eivind Haugstad Kleiven.
By David Downie, Sports Reporter
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Rooney was idolised after his first goal against Arsenal but the fans turned when he left Pics © Trinity Mirror
YouTube: Sir Alex Ferguson on Rooney