Derry mum jumps to Wayne Rooney’s defence

Wayne Rooney (left) and the late Tony 'Toe' Friel with his wife, Claire, and two sons, Reece and Luis.
Wayne Rooney (left) and the late Tony 'Toe' Friel with his wife, Claire, and two sons, Reece and Luis.
  • Manchester United star messages Derry boys after death of their father
  • Widow describes Rooney as ‘great guy’
  • Message helped boys through ‘hard time’

A Derry widow has leaped to the defence of beleaguered football star Wayne Rooney.

The Manchester United and England star, who was booed by sections of the Wembley crowd during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Malta, has not started in United’s past three matches.

Wayne Rooney's Facebook correspondence with Claire Friel.

Wayne Rooney's Facebook correspondence with Claire Friel.

And, to add insult to injury, he’s been dropped for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.

The star admitted this week that he was in a “difficult period.”

Among those urging the media to lay off the 30 year old is Claire Friel from Derry.

The mum-of-two contacted the United star after the sudden death of her husband, Tony (Toe), from kidney disease at the end of the summer.

I couldn’t believe he had taken the time to say hello to the boys and wish them well

Claire Friel

Tony (42), says Claire, was a massive Man U. fan - a “red through and through”.

She later got in touch with Rooney via Facebook and asked him if he would mention her two sons Reece and Luis - also United fans - in a post.

“The boys had just returned to school and it was a hard time for them,” says Claire. “I thought they could do with a pick-me-up.”

Within hours, the footballer was back in touch with Claire on Facebook.

In a touching post, he wrote: “Hi, Claire. I’m really sorry to hear of your loss. My condolences go out to you and your family at this sad time. Reece and Luis, stay strong, lads, and I’m wishing you all the best for the future. Good luck in school and everything you do! Wayne x.”

Claire says the message was a wonderful boost for both her and the boys.

“I couldn’t believe he had taken the time to say hello to the boys and wish them well. We have always been a family of United and Wayne Rooney fans but now my youngest son thinks he’s our friend!

“I just think those people giving him flak in the media should stop and think of the acts of kindness which he frequently does. In our eyes, he’s a great guy.”