Everton captain Wayne Rooney says returning to Goodison Park in the summer was “a natural fit”.
Boyhood Everton fan Rooney moved back to Merseyside after 13 years at Manchester United with whom he won every possible trophy at club level.
Rooney made the switch to Old Trafford in 2004 after coming through the youth ranks at Everton and despite his successes with United and England, the 32-year-old insists he always hoped to return to Goodison Park.
“I always had in the back of my mind I wanted to go back,” he told Jamie Carragher in an interview for The Telegraph. “Over the last two or three years I went back to Goodison with my eldest lad. I was just thinking this is the right time. I wanted my kids to see me play for Everton. It was a natural fit for me.
“Obviously there were other offers – offers from abroad – but when I spoke to Paul (Stretford) my agent I said to him, ‘Make sure you get that done!’ It was the only real place I wanted to go.”
“I will always be grateful to Bill (Kenwright), Ronald (Koeman) and everybody else at the club who helped make it happen.”
Carragher provoked Rooney to reminisce over his first derby.
“Yep, it finished 0-0,” he remembered. “I remember Stevie (Gerrard’s) tackle on Gary Naismith. I also remember Chris Kirkland was in goal.
“I remember going through and hitting him really hard through a tackle. My hip was in agony and I was thinking, ‘There is no way I will come off.’ He was down for ages. Then I hit the bar.”
Rooney was then asked if he had any regrets when he left Everton for United in 2004.
“There were things I had been dreaming of I had not done for Everton,” he admitted.
“What I really regretted was I had not scored against Liverpool for Everton. I did it for Manchester United but as a youngster it was never a dream of mine to score at Anfield for Manchester United.
“I was an Everton fan, so as a young Everton fan I was dreaming of scoring at Anfield for Everton.
“When I came back I was thinking about the chance to do that. So to do it this year fulfilled that.”