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Featured Image Credit: The Big Interview with Graham Hunter/YouTube
Former Everton striker Kevin Campbell has recalled the first time he played alongside a young Wayne Rooney during a game against Non-League outfit Southport – and it's some of the best storytelling we've seen for a long time.
Back in the early 00's, the experienced Campbell, who had joined the Toffees from Trabzonspor in 1999 following a successful loan spell at Goodison, wanted to play some minutes in a reserve team game after picking up an ankle injury.
He was in the latter stages of recovery when he boarded a coach to Southport but much to his surprise, a 14-year-old kid was chatting away on the bus. "I thought he was the physio's nephew," Campbell recalls. Here is the brilliant story in full:
How good was that?
If you haven't got four minutes to watch the above YouTube clip via Graham Hunter's channel [I highly recommend you do so], then here's a quick breakdown of the story.
Before hopping onto the coach that day to play, Campbell was aware of the name Wayne Rooney through word of mouth but he didn't have a clue what he looked like.
So when the 14-year-old kid from Croxteth pulled on his training kit in the dressing room ahead of kick-off, a surprised Campbell thought 'the physio's nephew' was just going to participate in the warm-up.
Wayne Rooney as a youngster at Everton. pic.twitter.com/2S6KJkVGo9— Michael H (@MikeH1964) June 30, 2016
Then, in another shock to the system, Everton's captain at the time was approached by reserve team coach Andy Holden, who explained that the striker had to treat Rooney like a first-team player.
"We start the game off," Campbell begins. "The ball gets played up to him. And I nod it down inside. I'd normally flick it on to get him to run onto it, but I nod it on because you want to play with your partner.
"He gets on the ball and the big centre-back tries to come in and knick it. He bounces into the centre-half, reverses it back to me. I just play it in behind and he runs through. Bang. It's in the bottom corner.
"I look over to Andy Holden and he shrugs and says 'I told you'."
Campbell goes on to praise Rooney's touch and awareness. Everton were 3-0 up at half-time and the experienced forward couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"I truthfully couldn't believe what I was witnessing," he added. "Southport had seasoned non-league players who were playing at the back. They were men. And he was man-handling them at 14-years-old.
"It shouldn't be feesable. But he was head and shoulders above anything I've ever seen at that age."