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Len Capeling: Why fans shouldn't waste their energy hating Wayne.

Byline: Len Capeling

WHEN Nick Barmby quit Everton for Liverpool -- without so much as a farewell kiss -- there was talk of death threats.

Or at least, alleged death threats.

Questioned by a newspaper reporter about this claimed descent into a lynch mob mentality, the midfielder gave an exemplary response.

``Come on, what are we talking about here?'' he said. ``Murder incorporated or the game of football. Are you telling me I should fear for my life because I'm moving to another soccer club?''

We shouldn't expect a similarly slick response from the exiting Wayne Rooney -- unless it's penned for him by his highly-paid management team.

Yet the same sentiment applies as the hate mail that Rooney will never read forms itself into a mountain at post offices throughout Merseyside.

The reaction of fans isn't surprising. They've seen a born Blue agree to quit his supposedly spiritual, two-up, two-down, home for a star-spangled palace where household names roam and reputations are made. And occasionally unmade.

They're angry because Rooney was so good they dared to dream of a bright Blue new world where wondrous Wayne would lead and others follow -- to glory.

Now they see their hopes riding off into an Old Trafford sunrise with no guarantee that the fortune he's earned for Everton will ever find its way to the desperate David Moyes.

Rooney's big mistake, of course, was not the decision to leave the club of his birth. That error -- if such it is -- might have been forgiven.

Just. No, the mistake Rooney made was in kissing the badge. In swearing undying love for Everton.

If all of that business with the badge -- always a highly questionable act -- had been left undone, Rooney might have escaped much of the bile.

But not now. Now his vow of allegiance must be seen as a suicide note as more radical fans extend the name into a whole string of expletives.

There is another problem for Rooney.

Some of the words I've seen written about him have been so filled with loathing that they resemble a witch's curse rather than an attempt to analyse, dispassionately, what is just another sensational transfer story.

Someone, red in the face, even tried to convince me that Rooney would now lose all his talents because, among other things, he had nothing upstairs.

The actual phraseology was more venomously Anglo-Saxon than that, but you get the general drift. So hate is what it's really all about.

We apparently have to hate Wayne Rooney to make ourselves feel better about things. We have to buy into the kind of mental instability that might see us buying voodoo dolls to stick pins into.

Sorry, not me.

It's sad that Wayne is gone. It's sad that his advisors felt that a club so financially strung up was never going to fund the future of a superstar in embryo.

But hating him won't harm the lad -- materially or otherwise -- or prevent him going on to fulfil all his glittering potential. Although nothing is ever so clear-cut when it comes to football.

At this point, it's worth hearing the views of a lifelong Everton fan of my acquaintance.

He, like many others, has suffered a steep rise in their Bullens Road season ticket prices, but, for the good of Everton, he gets on with it. In other words, he's the kind of fan every club would dearly love to own.

He regrets the leaving of a special player. He probably disagrees with some of the advice the teenager has been given.

But hate Wayne Rooney? Come on! He'd rather expend his energies backing what's important to him: Everton Football Club.

Over the years he's seen a whole army of outstanding players leave the club: Bobby Collins, Tommy Ring, Alex Young, Roy Vernon, Brian Labone, Howard Kendall, Alex Scott, Colin Harvey, Alan Ball, Peter Reid, Andy Gray, Trevor Steven, Gary Lineker, Graeme Sharp, Kevin Ratcliffe, Neville Southall. The list is endless, and legendary.

Admittedly, their departures incited nothing like the same bitterness we now find ourselves drowning in.

Though the headlong departures of Alan Ball and later Gary Lineker -- after goals in his one and only season -- can still move veteran Goodison watchers to dewy-eyed remembrance of happy times past.

Wayne Rooney is simply another milestone, sadly, not negotiated by the Blues. Life after the Croxteth kid will be different, but it needn't be perilous.

Without Rooney, Everton have strung together an encouraging unbeaten run, with the gallant draw at you-know-where the most uplifting of the lot so far.

Here I find myself in the enviable position of saying, I told you so.

While the majority of pundits preached doom and more doom, I backed David Moyes to make midtable and perhaps a bit better than that. And I see no reason -- post Rooney -- to change my opinion.

Finally, think about this.

What if Everton had been forced to make the choice between saying goodbye to Wayne Rooney or saying goodbye to David Moyes?

Which of them would have represented the greatest loss to a club whose management, away from the playing side, is so disastrous?

I'll tell you. His initials comprise the fourth letter of the alphabet and -- in this case -- the lucky 13th letter. Now you can smile.

CAPTION(S):

Nick Barmby's move to Liverpool evoked emotions similar to this week's
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:890
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