x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rooney's agent and how he treated me

Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford is a key factor in what's going on with Manchester United's best player at the moment. I know better than anyone what Stretford is like because he was my agent.

Wayne Rooney on the golf course with his agent, Paul Stretford.
Wayne Rooney on the golf course with his agent, Paul Stretford.
Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford is a key factor in what's going on with Manchester United's best player at the moment. When Sir Alex Ferguson made reference to players who have agents living in their pockets, it was aimed at Stretford.
And I know better than anyone what Stretford is like because he was my agent. I was his biggest name player for a long time, the person who made him real money.
The former vacuum cleaner salesman was relatively new to the game when Scott Sellars, my Newcastle United teammate, told me that there was someone I should meet.
I'd just joined Newcastle and told Scott that I wasn't interested in an agent. He persisted and sang the praises of Stretford, insisting that no harm was to be done by meeting him.
So I met him and he seemed OK. In that first meeting, Stretford told me that if I signed with him then I would never have to work again after football. He told me to sign for a year and that if I didn't like it then I could walk away. He told me that he was absolutely dedicated to his players. I signed.
Life went well for me at Newcastle until I fell out with Kevin Keegan, the manager. We were about to play Wimbledon in the League Cup. I was messing about in training. It was cold and I was knackered from the game on Saturday.
"What's wrong, do you not fancy training?" Kevin asked.
"To be honest, no," I replied.
"If you don't want to train, you might as well **** off in then," the manager replied.
So, me being me, I went inside and didn't come out. He probably thought that I would go back out, but he didn't know my character.
Kevin saw that I was leaving and asked me what I was doing. I argued that I was only following his instructions.
I went south to my missus in Brixton in London and told her about what had happened. She asked me if I was for real and had a go. I ended up having an argument with her until she dropped down a couple of gears and saw it more my way.
Newcastle lost against Wimbledon that night, with supporters and the media wondering why I was absent. Keegan responded to questions by saying that I'd walked out of the club.
The story went big and I decided not to go into training the following day. Then Stretford called.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"What do you mean, what am I doing?" I replied.
"You can't just walk out."
"I did as I was told to do."
"Well you're going to have to get yourself back up the road tomorrow."
I went back up the road, but it was never the same again for me at Newcastle.
Stretford got to work, lining up Manchester United. He became a big part of my life. He got me a British record transfer to United in 1995. Before I left, Sellars told me that Stretford would be brilliant for as long as I was making him money. I remembered that later.
I moved to Manchester and stayed at Stretford's house as he made me part of the family. I thought it was a generous gesture - I later found out that he had been deducting rent from my earnings.
My agent was influential in every area of my life. He invited me to family functions and controlled what I said to the media.
He hated the idea of anyone getting close to me, just as he does with Wayne. He was very domineering, but I let him be like that because I thought he had my best interest at heart.
He told journalists that they couldn't ask certain things and lined up commercial deals. He gave me advice about everything I did. I made him so much money that he became a wealthy man, but I didn't mind because I considered him to be a decent agent and a friend.
But Stretford obviously considered me to be a client and nothing more, because as soon as I stopped making him money I didn't hear from him. I expected much better. He was a small-time agent when he took me on and used my name to attract other players.
Stretford wasn't motivated by friendships, but money. I wasn't the only player who stopped hearing from him when I'd served my purpose. People don't speak well of him. I've seen him a few times since and he's had nothing more than a grunt from me.
There's a lot of second guessing going on with Rooney at the moment, but Stretford will be very close to the decision making. He'll have a plan for Wayne on and off the field.
I'd be surprised if he hadn't sounded options out. He gets his buzz doing big deals. And his financial cut.
I gave him plenty of deals and he loved all that. And it would give him great satisfaction if he could make his client Wayne Rooney the best paid player in football.
Andrew Cole is the second-leading goal-scorer in Premier League history. His column is written with the assistance of correspondent Andy Mitten.
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