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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, July 07, 2004
    In the news
     


    Duncan Campbell took a night off from serious investigative journalism the evening of the England-Portugal game to drink in The Western Approaches, our local where the Rooney family are regulars. It didn't appear the next morning in The Guardian's northern edition, and it's not in their web archives either. But thanks to Pete I now have a copy of the published article and (through pure vanity, as I'm quoted extensively in it) I reproduce it here....

    The end of Wayne's world: Rooney injured, faithful gutted at his local

    The Western Approaches, as any student of the second world war knows, is that slice of the ocean off the British coast that was at the heart of the Battle of the Atlantic.

    The Western Approaches pub, as any student of Euro 2004 knows, is the Croxteth local of the family of Wayne Rooney, who last night was for at least part of the match at the heart of a gentler conflict between European nations. Family friends and old schoolmates packed the pub to the rafters in anticipation.

    The Corals betting shop next door was offering odds of 6-1 on both Rooney and Michael Owen being the first to score.

    The manager, Paul Edwards, said that there had been plenty of takers on both local boys and within three minutes at least some people in the pub were clearly having a double celebration when Owen scored.

    "Wayne's dad has bet here," said Mr Edwards. How about Wayne? "Well, he's only 18 so he couldn't have," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

    John Gore said: "Wayne's brilliant. Because he was brought up round here, everyone knows him. He's not big headed.

    "He stops and talks to kids on the street. He's a shy lad, down to earth. It's rough and ready round here but there's good and bad everywhere and Wayne, well he's just brilliant!"

    Once the game had started the commentators could not be heard for all the equally pithy comments being made by the locals.

    Barry Gannon said: "He's our saviour and England's saviour. Look at the lad's exuberance!" At that moment Rooney had to depart from the pitch with an injured foot. "Look, he left his boot on the floor but he still went on playing," said Mr Gannon.

    "What paper are you from? The Guardian? Well, I'll buy the paper in the morning, but I'm a foreman on a building site. Imagine me going in with your paper under my arm - I'll have to hide it in the Sport."

    An old friend of Wayne Rooney's dad, who introduced himself as Mouse, said that the whole pub had been willing Wayne to succeed and England to win.

    When Rooney went off there was an element of Hamlet without the Prince, Troy without Achilles and the World without Wayne.

    The Portuguese goal was greeted with collective moans but the noise was nothing compared to the shouts that greet Sol Campbell's disallowed goal. The sounds from the Western Approaches were loud enough to wake all the residents at the neighbouring West Derby cemetery.

    "That was a goal," said Jamie Pines. "He was nowhere near any of the Portuguese."

    Jay Patrick agreed: "The referee is Swiss and he doesn't like it because we beat the Swiss 3-0."

    As the game went into extra time the pub refuelled itself for that final push.

    The local vicar, John Davies, who is an Everton season ticket holder and writes what must be one of the world's most entertaining clerical blogs, said that the success of Rooney had been a wonderful boon for the neighbourhood.

    "This is an area that is fairly depressed and the nub of people's jokes about it being a hotbed of crime," said Davies, who has baptised a Rooney relative at his Church of the Good Shepherd.

    "But people here have hearts of gold, and there is an obvious sense of pride. It shows the world what people from here can achieve. We're very proud for Wayne."

    There had not been a great increase in recent attendance at the church by fans seeking assistance from the Great Referee in the skies, he said.

    "But being an Everton fan helps you in prayers anyway - we need to be on our knees every week," said Davies, who in a 2002 blog, perceptively described the arrival on the scene of the 16-year-old Rooney as "divine intervention".

    The penalty shootout was unbearable. There were cries of "Come on the boys!" as every shot was taken. Jamie Pines had to turn his back on the screen.

    As Sven sipped water on the screen, the inhabitants of the Western Approaches turned to Tetleys.

    There were tears at the end and shrugs of resignation and remarks about David Beckham that even a liberal family newspaper like the Guardian might not find room for.

    And then came the saddest moment of the night. The Western Approaches had turned into the Cruel Sea.