There was a moment during Wayne Rooney’s return to where it all started, when 99 England caps and all those honours were the furthest thing from his mind.
Standing in the foyer of Our Lady and St Swithin’s Catholic Primary School, peering into the main hall, the sight of 99 excited pupils — who had gathered to mark the latest milestone in his glittering career — took him back to his childhood.
It was in this school, in the working-class Croxteth area of Liverpool, that Rooney’s dreams of becoming a top footballer took flight. This is where he began kicking a ball in earnest, scampering around on a little yard he remembers ‘felt as big as three pitches’.
Rooney will become England’s ninth centurion when he leads the team out against Slovenia at Wembley this Saturday.
In recognition of the achievement, he took part in a photoshoot for Sportsmail that had echoes of the iconic images of former England captains Bobby Moore (1973) and Steven Gerrard (2012).
As he walked into the hall, Manchester United’s captain was given a deafening ovation.
The children, who had behaved impeccably as they waited patiently for him to arrive, sang his name and cheered as he took his place among them.
The children cheer as Rooney takes centre stage wearing the cap he won in England’s friendly against Brazil last year
Wearing one of his England caps, national team skipper Rooney chats with the Class of 2014 at the school where it all started for him
Wayne Rooney returned to Our Lady and St Swithin’s Catholic School in Liverpool ahead of winning his 100th England cap on Saturday
Each of the 99 children had their shirt signed by the England and Manchester United forward as they shared the special occasion
Click here to view more photos from the event