Sport Soccer

Friday 22 September 2017

Joining Everton was fantastic move for Wayne Rooney, says Darren Fletcher

Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring for Everton
Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring for Everton

Stoke midfielder Darren Fletcher believes Wayne Rooney's return to Everton is a "match made in heaven" and backed his former Manchester United team-mate to prove he is still a top-class player.

After 13 record-breaking years at Old Trafford, the 31-year-old's frustrations of wanting regular football saw the forward make a dream return to Goodison Park.

Rooney penned a two-year deal at Everton and scored his first goal back at his boyhood club on Saturday, when Ronald Koeman's Blues opened their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory against Stoke.

Fletcher, making his Potters debut after joined from West Brom, was a frustrated opponent at Goodison Park, but could not fail to be impressed by his close friend's impact.

"I thought it was a fantastic move for him," the ex-United midfielder said.

"He's coming to a club he supports. Location-wise it's not a big move for his family. He's coming home, really.

"That will motivate him as well, not that he needs motivating, but if there was that little dip then this will motivate him because of how much the club means to him.

"If he went to another club, I'm sure he would give 100 per cent because I know Wayne. But there is something extra special when you're at your boyhood team and you support the club.

"He will be delighted to be back here and scoring on his (Premier League) debut. He's a leader now, he will be setting an example to everyone.

"What a fantastic signing for Everton. It just seemed to fit didn't it? It was a match made in heaven for him at this stage of his career and with what he is trying to achieve as he is still a top-class player.

"It makes sense for everyone and you see that today. He could have gone to a league where he could have played in second gear but you can't do that in the Premier League.

"These Everton fans are very demanding so he has challenged himself which is fantastic, it's great. I hope he has a fantastic season - and finishes below Stoke."

A number of those making pre-season predictions suggest there will not be many teams finishing below the Potters.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes is already the bookmakers' favourite to be the first Premier League manager to leave their post, but Fletcher does not foresee any such struggles.

"I think we will be all right," the 33-year-old said.

"People can predict before the season but if they see this match, obviously we lost, I don't think we will struggle.

"It's interesting to see people writing us off. We can't do anything about it."

Put to him that Stoke's poor spring sticks in the mind, Fletcher said: "Yeah and obviously we lost (Marko) Arnautovic, who was a good player. But there are a lot of good players in this squad.

"Our team will improve as well towards the end of the transfer window and we brought in some good players already.

"We feel fine, we are not paying too much attention (to critics). We can't do much about that. Let people make their predictions - the day somebody predicts the Premier League right I will shake their hand.

"Let's see at the end of the season."

While Stoke attempt to bring in players, they - like many clubs - are having to deal with interest from others.

Swansea have already seen an enquiry into former midfielder Joe Allen's availability knocked back, but Gylfi Sigurdsson's big-money move to Everton could embolden the Welsh side.

Asked about the speculation, Allen said with a laugh: "I don't want to talk about this, to be honest. There's not much I have to say, really.

"I had a great year (at Stoke) - enjoyed it since day one. I have been really looking forward to the season getting under way.

"With pre-season, you're always waiting for the opening day to come around and it seems like ages at time.

"We're under way, we didn't get anything unfortunately but I think we're looking pretty good and we can take a few positives from this.

"I think everyone is looking forward to having a positive season."

Press Association

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport