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Football: DON'T DO IT MY WAY; Washed-up Kenny warns Rooney.

Byline: CLAIRE COLLINS

EVERTON'S last teenage sensation has warned wonderkid Wayne Rooney: "Don't blow it like I did."

Reformed drug addict Billy Kenny wasted his dazzling talent on booze and drugs and now he wants to tell 17-year-old Rooney not to make the same mistakes.

The unemployed father of one said: "Wayne needs to watch out for the vices that could ruin him.

"The wads of cash and new-found fame will bring temptations that he must be strong enough to resist.

"If he doesn't, he'll end up like me - a failure."

Just like Rooney, Kenny came from a working class background to land a pounds 1,000-a-week contract as a fresh-faced 18-year-old with his boyhood club, Everton.

But things went horribly wrong when a six month injury lay-off left him with too much time and money on his hands.

Speaking exclusively to The SP, Kenny, 29, revealed how he used to:

-BINGE drink to forget his boredom.

-TRAIN while high on cocaine.

-IGNORE warnings that his career was going down the drain.

Kenny's dreams came true in 1991 when Howard Kendall signed him on pro forms at 18 and he soon confirmed his billing as Britain's brightest young star.

But the teenager was devastated when he developed shin splints and required a series of operations.

"I was very angry and depressed. It was my first professional season and I was out though injury,'' said Kenny.

"I was bored and my mates asked me to go along with them for a few nights out.

"I hadn't got drunk or even been on a proper night out before - I just trained and trained every day.

"But when I couldn't train I was lost - I didn't know what to do with myself. I was lost, frustrated and bored.

"Going out became a release - we used to go to clubs at the weekend and the lads would always have a line of coke.

"Eventually I tried some, liked it and was hooked.

"I also drank ten pints and got totally wrecked."

Kenny began drinking every night with a group of pals who latched to him because of his new-found wealth.

Everton were paying him pounds 1,000-a-week and he blew the lot on cocaine and booze.

He said: "I'd be out until 5am, sleep for a couple of hours and then get a taxi to the training ground still off my head.

"I was taking coke everywhere and anywhere I could ... in pubs, clubs and even in my bedroom at home."

Eventually the binges caught up with him and when Kenny recovered from his injury he was a wreck on the training pitch.

He said: "I couldn't see the ball properly, never mind kick it straight.

"I was in no fit state for training and everyone knew what was going on. I'd lost all interest in football and my life revolved around drugs.''

Kenny was unable to keep his new lifestyle a secret and eventually he was caught out by Goodison chiefs and fined two weeks' wages.

"My parents were devastated,'' confessed Kenny.

"I'd always tried to hide it from them and I didn't realise how they were suffering.''

When manager Howard Kendall was replaced by Mike Walker, Kenny was given his marching orders.

"When Mike Walker told me the news I was completely numb. I couldn't believe what they were saying and I didn't know where to turn.

"Instead of giving me the help I needed he shut the door in my face."

Kenny has now been clean for four years and lives with girlfriend Lindsay Maguire, 29, and their little girl Peggy, two. He said: "If I'd had Peggy when I was playing I might never have gone wrong.

"But the fact is that I should have been playing in the same side as Wayne Rooney now - not warning him against making the same mistakes as me.

"I really want him to be a star and to do the business for Everton because I still support the club.

"Hopefully Wayne will be properly looked after and he won't go down the same road as me.

"The club need to wrap him up in cotton wool until he understands what it's like and Wayne needs to keep his feet on the ground and stay close to his family.

"He won't understand yet but there are bad people are out there waiting to take advantage of him.''

CAPTION(S):

PARKLIFE: Former Everton teen sensation Billy Kenny reflects on what might have been outside Goodison Park; BILLY THE KID: As a fresh-faced teenager
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 27, 2002
Words:758
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