Wayne Rooney: Boxing helped me to keep playing football

Wayne Rooney sits with Eddie Hearn ringside
Wayne Rooney sits ringside with Eddie Hearn during a bout at Manchester Arena in 2016

DC United striker and former England captain Wayne Rooney says he intends to move into coaching or management when his playing career ends.

In a wide-ranging interview conducted by boxing promoter Eddie Hearn for his new BBC podcast 'No passion, No point', Rooney opens up about his future hopes.

The former Everton striker also described how boxing has helped his career and outlined how a controversial punch he once took from Burnley defender Phil Bardsley left his former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal in hysterics.

US adds to manager skills

Hearn hopes to unearth the secrets of successful people on his new podcast.

He set up a meeting with England's record goalscorer through a private Instagram message and the pair then met in Washington, where Rooney has played for DC United for almost 12 months and where he says he will finish his career.

"I had big offers from China but it wasn't right for me and my family," says Rooney, 33.

"It was the right time to get out of England and experience something different. Hopefully I see a different culture and way of preparing for games, so when I do go into management I have seen this side where you don't get all the perks you have in the Premier League, so I will have that knowledge of how to prepare in certain situations.

"My aim is to go straight into coaching at whatever level, so we will see what opportunities come up."

Next chapter keeps me at ease

Wayne Rooney, Louis Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs
Could Rooney follow former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs or manager Louis van Gaal into coaching?

Rooney says his US move has afforded him more quality time with family as he is recognised far less than in the UK.

He is now playing in his 18th season in a career spanning over 800 matches, and is under contract with DC United until the end of 2020.

So in keeping with Hearn's desire to understand what drives successful people, he asked if playing and chasing success was like an "addiction" and whether Rooney was scared of his career ending.

"If I knew I would walk away from football and not be involved in the sport it would be scary," says Rooney.

"In England, football and the pressure take over your life. If you win, great - you look forward to the next game. If you lose it's so hard to get over a loss. If you don't learn quickly how to adapt and put it to the back of your mind, it can affect you.

"People who leave a sport for a period of time, sometimes you see they are really low. Whether they turn to alcohol or drugs, it's hard to replace the buzz you get on the pitch or in the ring, so it is addictive.

"Financially I don't need to be here playing, I could be at home but I want to play.

"Whether it be coaching or management, it will be the next chapter.

"It will be different, you don't get the buzz of playing but you can see the effect managers have in preparing a team."

Wayne the boxer

Wayne Rooney pretends to be knocked-out
Wayne Rooney pretends to be knocked-out as part of his goal celebration

Rooney played under-19 football for Everton at the age of 14 and made his first team debut aged just 16.

He told Hearn - who promotes unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua - that during his teenage years he would go straight to the boxing gym after football training.

"I think at a younger age, boxing does more for kids than football does," Rooney adds.

"It takes kids off the streets and out of situations they may get involved in.

"It helps you have self discipline, goals to hit and it did it for me. Me being able to play in the Premier League at 16 was down to the training I was doing at boxing. It made me physically ready, otherwise I wouldn't have been physically able to play against the likes of Sol Campbell and Martin Keown.

"Boxing has also helped me to keep playing now, as I still box if I get injured."

The Bardsley punch

Rooney's uncle still runs a gym near the Croxteth estate in Liverpool where he grew up, and his father also used to box.

Being around the sport has instilled a passion in Rooney, who confesses he once knocked his brother out when their father put gloves on them in their house as children.

Hearn too has heard rumours of makeshift sparring sessions at Rooney's house when boxers visit.

A video showing Rooney floored by a punch thrown by Bardsley made headlines in 2015, leading to reports he had been 'knocked out' by the Burnley player.

Hours later he scored for Manchester United - then managed by Van Gaal - against Tottenham and celebrated by throwing a flurry of punches before falling to the ground.

"With Bardsley we had been out, went home and put the gloves on," said Rooney.

"After I went down, I wasn't knocked out. The video stops but we got up and carried on fighting. When we had finished, my nose had gone and he had blood coming out of his mouth.

"He has been brought up like me and loves boxing. I went into see Louis van Gaal and said this story was coming out about us fighting in the house. Van Gaal found it hilarious."

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