Wayne Rooney has earned some warranted criticism for his lacklustre display against Poland on Wednesday, and his performance level's regression is intensified by memories of him announcing his brilliance as a 16-year-old for Everton against Arsenal 10 years ago today.
Arsenal, reigning Premier League champions and FA Cup winners, had not lost a league game all year. Their last loss was a 3-1 home reverse against Newcastle United the previous December and they hadn't lost away from home in the league since the last ever match at Southampton's Dell in May 2001.
All that changed on 19 October 2001. Arsenal had won eight and drawn two of their opening 10 games in the Premier League before they took an early lead at Goodison Park through Freddie Ljungberg on eight minutes. Tomasz Radzinski, who enjoyed a decent season with the Toffees until injury cut short his campaign in March, equalised on 14 minutes later.
But the game is rightly remembered for one flash of genius. Rooney, a substitute for Radzinski on 80 minutes, had already scored his first Everton goals on the first day of the month at Wrexham in the League Cup in front of only a few cameras. Now he was about to announce his name to the world, let alone a Welsh community.
Thomas Gravesen's looped ball forward was controlled ingeniously by the Croxteth striker, who took advantage of Sol Campbell standing off him to curl a magnificently precise strike into the top corner, via the underside of the crossbar, for a 90th minute winner.
That David Seaman, his conquest, was a figure of ridicule because of letting Ronaldinho's cross-shot past him in that year's World Cup (and that ponytail) was irrelevant. The audacity and execution of a 16-year-old against the best team in the country was earth-shattering. And Goodison shook raucously in celebration.
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