Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time record goalscorer, says he turned to drink to cope with the pressures of fame.
In revealing interviews with the Daily Mail and the Times, the 36-year-old opened up about the impact of going from growing up on a Liverpool council estate to becoming a superstar of English football.
“To go from that to having to deal with becoming a Premier League player at 16 and an international player was something I wasn’t prepared for,” said the ex-Manchester United striker.
Rooney made his Premier League debut at 16 for Everton, played and scored for England at 17 and hit a Champions League hat-trick on his debut for Manchester United at 18 after a £27m move.
“I had never even thought about the other side of being a football player. I wasn’t prepared for that part of life,” he said, speaking before the launch of an Amazon Prime documentary about his life.
“It took a long time for me to get used to that and figure out how to deal with it. It was like being thrown in somewhere where you are just not comfortable. That was tough for me.”
Rooney, who went on to become United and England’s all-time record goalscorer and won the Premier League five times, says he “made a lot of mistakes” as a young player and that drinking was his main way of coping.
“In my early years at Manchester United, probably until we had my first son, Kai, I locked myself away really. I never went out,” Rooney told the two newspapers.
“There were times you’d get a couple of days off from football and I would actually lock myself away and just drink, to try to take all that away from my mind.
“People might know that I liked a drink at times or went out but there was a lot more to it than just that. It was what was going on in my head.
“It was just a build-up of everything… pressure of playing for your country, playing for Manchester United, the pressure of some of the stuff which came out in the newspapers about my personal life, just trying to deal with all that pressure which builds up.
“I was trying to figure out how to deal with it by myself. Growing up on a council estate, you would never actually go and speak to anyone. You would always find a way to deal with it yourself. It was trying to cope with it yourself rather than asking for help.”
Rooney, who returned for a second spell at Everton and also played for DC United and Derby County before taking over as manager of the Championship club, says he did not feel comfortable speaking to anybody at Old Trafford about his issues and that he now has it “under control”.
“Now, people would be more empowered to speak about that kind of thing,” said Rooney. “Back then, in my head and with other players, there was no way I could just go into the dressing room and start saying this is how I am feeling because you just wouldn’t do it.
“Then you would end up suffering internally rather than letting your thoughts out.”