Coleen Rooney arrives at the YOU photo shoot on a rainy Manchester morning. She’s just done the school run (from her £20 million Cheshire mansion) with her three youngest sons Klay, ten, Kit, seven, and Cass, five (Kai, 14, takes the bus to his secondary school).
On weekdays she doesn’t do breakfast – just a ginger and turmeric shot and some hot water with ginger, lemon and honey, before a coffee. ‘Maybe at the weekend I’ll have some scrambled eggs.’
Normally, she’d be at the gym or a pilates class by now. Instead, she’s sitting beside me in a fluffy jumper by Danish brand Samsøe Samsøe (‘I don’t know how you pronounce it’), Marks & Spencer trackies (‘so comfortable!’) and white Adidas trainers. She’s yet to get her hair and make-up done, but she’s radiant in the way only wealth, regular facials, sunny holidays and – she’s admitted – the odd vial of Botox can achieve.
There’s more to it than grooming, though. Rooney, 37, has a glow of vindication.
Last summer, after several turbulent years, she triumphed in the ‘Wagatha Christie‘ libel case. A high court judge deemed her Twitter post, naming fellow footballer’s wife Rebekah Vardy as the grass who’d leaked details from her private Instagram account to the media, to be ‘substantially true’. It left Vardy facing legal bills rumoured to be in the millions.
Coleen Rooney is pictured in a Jacquemus blazer from Harvey Nichols Manchester. Her earrings are from Venyx World and her necklace is myjoolsbyilana.com
The Coleen the public sees with a sprawling home, endless holidays, private jets on standby and constant VIP access remains just one step removed from the diligent schoolgirl Wayne fell in love with
Now – with a three-part Disney+ documentary, Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story, plus an autobiography, My Account, to be published this week – Rooney has the chance to hit back at the naysayers who belittled her as a working-class gold-digger from Liverpool. As she writes in her book, the 17-year-old girl who got engaged to mega-striker Wayne (whom she’d known since she was 12) was dismissed as ‘a shopaholic, the chav made good, the WAG’.
The Rooney marriage appeared to hit bump after bump when Wayne, now 38, got involved in a series of drunken misdemeanours and was further revealed to have visited prostitutes. Standing by her man, she endured more jibes – this time she was ‘a doormat, a pushover, [with] no self-respect’, she writes in her book. Today, however, it’s obvious she is none of those things. Nicknamed ‘Pippy’ by her father after the fictional character Pippi Longstocking, ‘because I was strong and stood for no messing’, she is poised and self-assured; pleasant and polite but with a slightly guarded air after two decades of keeping strangers who might want to exploit her at arm’s length. Anyone sniping that she’s stayed with Wayne because nothing better was on the table would be woefully misjudging her.
When she put a message on her Instagram account just before the bombshell tweet, saying: ‘Don’t play games with a girl who can play better,’ she meant every word. Vardy underestimated Rooney – to her (enormous) cost. ‘People have asked other people [why I stayed with Wayne], but not many people have personally asked me,’ she says calmly. ‘There has been unfortunate stuff we’ve had to go through, and our families have had to cope with – it’s been hard at times for them, too. My circle has helped me get through them [tough] times.’
Twenty years on, however, she’s taking a firm stance on whose business this is. ‘It’s my decision whatever line I want to go down. I like to think I’m strong enough to say, ‘Enough’s enough,’ or, ‘Let’s continue and go forward with this.’
In her memoir she writes: ‘Wayne’s a great dad’ adding: ‘Every time he’s gone off the rails, it’s been a stupid, drunken, spur-of-the-moment thing.’ And for anyone who is still unclear on this point, the romance is still very much alive. ‘My message,’ says Rooney, ‘is if there’s something to work at, if the love’s still there, why would you throw that away? Mistakes have happened, but I’ve always known Wayne’s loved me.’ In reality, the couple has weathered more storms than we knew.
The autobiography reveals their devastation after her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at ten weeks. ‘A horrible experience that knocked Wayne for six, too,’ she says. She explains the depression Wayne’s suffered intermittently, the result of the intense pressure he’s been under since joining Everton as a kid. ‘Still to this day he has it – everyone on him,’ she says. ‘Not to see what he’s doing right but to see what he’s doing wrong. It’s a shame.’
She’s always coped with the spotlight better than he has, but says, ‘Whatever scrutiny I was under, [Wayne] had it tenfold.’ When it becomes overwhelming, she writes, ‘he’ll drink to blot it all out and escape from the world. What happens of course is the opposite.’ ‘Wayne is not a big talker,’ she says now. ‘So sometimes he can hold stuff in, and it can get to a point where it’s a bit much.’
Have they ever had couples’ therapy? Rooney looks as if she’s just heard Vardy’s heading over for cocktails. ‘No! We’ve never felt the need. I’ve probably tried to act as the therapist. The unhappy times were bad and made the headlines, but we’ve always brought it back to happiness.’ Will she let the four boys read her book? ‘Obviously the little ones are too small, I’ll wait for when the time comes. But Kai can. There’s nothing in there that he doesn’t know about. If they ask me questions, I answer them because I don’t want them going through life getting surprises. Whatever anyone says to Kai, he can answer, ‘I know. My mum and dad have told me.’ Wayne’s made mistakes and they have stuck, and it’s not nice that those things get brought up all the time, so hopefully Kai will learn from that as well.’
If she wants readers to have one takeaway from the book, it’s this: the Coleen the public sees with a sprawling home, endless holidays, private jets on standby and constant VIP access (‘We used to have a box at the Manchester Arena and I was so determined to make the most of it I went to see everyone from Shayne Ward to Elton John’) remains just one step removed from the diligent schoolgirl Wayne fell in love with. ‘I’m true to my roots. I’ve not changed. Life around us has changed and though there are a handful of people over the years – people I don’t know well – who’ve said I’m different now, I’m not. What’s happened is that they’ve changed towards me.’
What shines through above all else is her family values instilled in her by her staunchly Catholic parents. Dad Tony McLoughlin was a bricklayer and Mum Colette was a stay-at-home mother who raised the four children (Coleen, Rosie, Anthony and Joe). Today they are both constantly on tap for babysitting – not just for Rooney but for her siblings, too. The most tearjerking parts of both her book and the documentary centre on Rosie, her adopted younger sister, who suffered from the rare genetic disorder Rett syndrome. She died aged 14 in 2013, at home surrounded by the entire family, including Wayne, who slept on the floor around her so they could be with her in her final hours. ‘We wish Rosie could have been with us throughout our lives, but we’ve got to think of the good times we had with her and how many people she touched,’ she says.
Coleen wears: Coat, Shrimps, from Couverture & The Garbstore. Tights, Carine Roitfeld x Pierre Mantoux. Sandals, Gina
Cardigan, Toga Pulla; shirt, Cawley; kilt, Shrimps, all from Couverture & The Garbstore. Tights, Wolford. Boots, Alaïa
It’s from Colette that Rooney has inherited her near-military organisational skills. In the documentary we see neat rows of outfits and equipment for the boys’ school and extracurricular activities – for each day she’d be away at the trial (when Tony and Colette were called in), with explanatory Post-it notes attached. ‘That’s my upbringing: my mum was organised. I am organised,’ she says. ‘I want to make sure that if I’m not there, my kids don’t feel it too much and life goes on, the routine continues as I would do it. It puts my mind at rest that I’ve done as much as I can. I’m then able to get on with what I’m away doing.’
Rooney the mum chuckles when recalling her teenage self, captured by paparazzi in her Juicy Couture tracksuit and moon boots. The diamond the size of a conker remains on her left hand. A diligent student, she realised then she could no longer combine revision for her A-levels in English literature, media studies and performing arts with being a supportive girlfriend. She dropped out of school.
‘You look at Kai, he’s a teenager, and you realise I was so young. My aim was to go to university, go down the media route maybe. But my thinking is that’s something I can always go back to. I smile looking back because we had so many good times.’
Being Wayne’s fiancée, then wife (there was a £5 million wedding in Italy in 2008) came with plenty of perks. Wayne moved from Everton to Manchester United in 2004 in a £25.6 million transfer deal, becoming the club’s top goal scorer of all time. ‘On his debut, he scored three goals. Unbelievable.’ So much cash and attention could have turned anyone’s head, but Rooney was buoyed by her parents’ untiring emotional and practical support. ‘We’ve got such strong-minded, positive people behind both of us and we’re lucky to have kept that together for all these years.’
Then there’s Rooney’s loyal gang of girlfriends, many from her Croxteth schooldays. ‘Them people have always been there for me. Some have come later on in life through football, through school, but they’re my proper girls, they’re so protective. We don’t see each other as much as we’d like, but when we get together we always laugh and have a good time.’
Given such support, it’s no wonder Rooney’s lowest point came in 2018, when the family moved to Washington, DC so that Wayne could play for and then manage DC United. This was not long after he had been caught drunk-driving another woman’s car, with her at his side, and Rooney desperately wanted to keep the family together. She found life in the Washington suburbs isolating, unable even to FaceTime friends and family because ‘the moment I saw someone I loved, I’d burst out crying. It was tough – there are times when life tests you – but we went as a family, which was the best decision I could have made at that point, and the kids had a great time. It was a lonely place for me but for them it wasn’t.’ Rooney relied on social media to keep in touch. ‘I was putting the kids to bed. Wayne was away at a game, and I’d sit down and want to pick up the phone and talk to someone.’ But the time difference often made that hard. ‘So instead, I’d go on Instagram and look through what everyone had been doing, catch up on birthdays I might have missed, all them things, it was my lifeline.’
Top and skirt, Baum Und Pferdgarten, from The Mercantile London. Shirt, Victoria Beckham, from Fenwick. Platforms, stylist’s own
So it was even more disturbing to realise someone she’d considered part of her inner circle was selling private snippets she shared about family life. ‘I’ve been in the public eye for over 20 years and throughout them years there have been stories out there that have been rubbish, but they’ve always been one-offs. This was obviously something different.’
The stress of the trial was all-consuming, to the point where she often felt distanced from both Wayne and the children. But now the family’s ready to move on to the next chapter. Wayne has a new job as manager of Birmingham City. ‘We’re all so happy he’s back, work’s just a drive away, he has a place to stay in Birmingham but he can commute.’
The boys all appear to be following in their dad’s footsteps, as Kai and Klay both play for Manchester United’s youth academy. ‘The youngest one liked football but wasn’t totally into it, although since this school year, he’s joined a team and is obsessed. Whatever they want to do, we’ll support, but we don’t push anything on them.’ She adds, laughing: ‘I know more through the kids about football than I ever knew through Wayne. I was there to support him, but I never took a lot on board. Now the kids are constantly talking about this and that, so I learn a lot more.’ Does she understand the offside rule? ‘I do, though I’m not good at calling it.’ Wayne’s had ‘the snip’ so there will be no more babies, and as the boys become more independent,
The Rooney marriage appeared to hit bump after bump when Wayne got involved in several drunken misdemeanours. Pictured: Coleen and Wayne Rooney attend the annual Manchester United Unicef charity dinner at Old Trafford in October 2007. They tied the knot in June 2008
Coleen and Wayne celebrated their son Kai’s 14th birthday earlier this week. They all wore matching pyjamas
Coleen and Wayne Rooney leave court after giving evidence in the ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial at the High Court of Justice in London in May 2022
Rooney is excited at the prospect of pursuing new projects. However, with characteristic discretion, she won’t say what they may be. ‘The kids have always been my priority, they always will be, but I’d like to see what’s out there for me. First, we’ll get through Christmas, that’s a big family affair – everything I do is a family affair. Then I’ll sit down with my management and map out what’s next. But I’m going to wait. I like to take my time; I like to organise and be prepared.’ The documentary and book have had us talking about the court case again, as has a forthcoming football match that it is already being dubbed the ‘Wagatha Derby’.
On 18 December, Wayne’s Birmingham City will face Leicester City, which Jamie Vardy plays for. It will be the first time the husbands have met since the trial and everyone is asking whether the drama will extend to the stands. Rooney, however, says that chapter of her life has been laid to rest. Still, if she’d known how her life would be overturned after posting that accusatory tweet, would she have still done it, or would she simply have blocked Vardy from her account, then called her telling her why? ‘I stuck to my truth,’ Rooney replies with what I now see is characteristic indomitability. ‘Everything I said from the beginning to the end never changed. I’d never wish a court case upon anyone. But I got the verdict I wanted. Now it’s time to move on.’
- My account by Coleen Rooney will be published on November 9 by Penguin Michael Joseph, £22.