To read the full 2017 article, “The Number 9,” click here.
Growing up in Manchester, my family had a little competition going on. Whenever they were buying me a gift for my birthday or for Christmas or whatever, they always knew the easy thing to get me. The latest football kit.
But coming from Manchester, families can be … divided. At least mine was. Half my family were United supporters and the other half were City. So these kits were more than gifts, you know what I mean? Especially as I got older and I kept getting better at football, my uncles would buy me the newest red or blue kits to try to bring me over to their side. It was a bit of a running joke in our family.
But there was one kit that I will never forget getting, and it wasn’t United or City.
One night, I came home after a kickabout with my brothers out front. My uncle was over and he had something for me.
Another football top.
Another red football top — he was United all the way.
I took it from him and looked at it. And that was when I realized that this one was different. On the top left of the chest was a crest with three lions and one gold star.
My first England shirt.
I flipped it over to see if it had a number on the back. (That was always a big deal.)
And just above that….
I was too young to appreciate the England teams of the ’90s — guys like Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham — so for me, it was all about Rooney. My earliest memories of the England team are of him and Michael Owen up front together. Me and my brothers, Dwaine and Dane, would always sit down to watch the England games together.
And then, when I was about eight years old my uncle gave me that Rooney kit. As every kid does, when you’re having a kickabout and you’ve got someone’s name on your back, you just try to follow in their footsteps.
I was a striker, so from that day, I wanted to be just like Rooney. And I wanted to play for England.
The days I could go to the park with my big brothers were the best. I loved competing against the older boys. Sometimes, we’d have games out on the green in front of our council estate. It was surrounded by houses, so it was cool because we knew that we could always show up at the green and know there’d always be a few kids playing. We’d even be outside on grey, rainy days — which in Manchester is the majority of the time. But in our imaginations, we were Rooney, or Owen, or Rio playing at Wembley for England.
I was a striker, so from that day, I wanted to be just like Rooney. And I wanted to play for England.- Marcus Rashford
All the days (and nights) leading up to your England debut, you can’t stop trying to imagine what it’s going to be like. You play it through in your head over and over again. You think about the pitch. You think about walking into the changing room.
But whatever you expect, it’s never going to be like that. It’s never going to be like how you dreamed.
It’s so much better than that.
I walked into the changing room for our friendly against Australia last May and saw all the shirts hanging up at each of the lockers. I remember looking around for mine … and then I saw it.
Red football top. With a crest on the left chest. Three lions. One gold star.
I flipped it around.
And just above that….
I kind of laughed and said to myself like, No more dreaming now. You’re playing for England.