Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and The Sickening Art of Badge Kissing

From Wayne Rooney to Luis Garcia to Craig Gardner. Football's worst badge kissers and the stories behind their staged loyalty.
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From Wayne Rooney to Luis Garcia to Craig Gardner. Football's worst badge kissers and the stories behind their staged loyalty.

Hang on, but didn't you grow up as an Everton fan?

Hang on, but didn't you grow up as an Everton fan?

When Wayne Rooney scored in the FA Youth Cup final in Everton’s 4-1 defeat, he revealed a t-shirt which said “once a blue, always a blue.” He had grown up an as an Everton fan, he had been a mascot at Goodison Park in the Merseyside derby and joined their youth set up when he was just 9-years-old.

Less than a year after scoring that goal he signed his first professional contract with Everton, despite lots of clubs being interested in luring him away.

"I never had any doubts during the talks," Rooney revealed. "I never wanted to go to another club. Running out there at Goodison Park to Z-cars playing in the background is one of the best feelings of my life. It's what I always wanted to do. Now my ambition is just to keep on playing for Everton. "

However, just a year and a half later he was unveiled as a Manchester United player, following a transfer request. "This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life but I feel the time is now right for me to move forward with my career," he said. “I hope the Everton fans can come to understand my decision and I hope the transfer fee Everton Football Club receive will help the club move forward. The Everton fans have always been fantastic in their support of me. I hope they respect my decision and I also hope that, some day in the future, I could be welcomed back to watch the team I have supported since boyhood. I am excited to be joining a club as big as Manchester United and I feel this can only improve my career.”

Just like everyone expected, he flourished at United, winning trophy after trophy, and seemed genuinely happy at the club. In October 2009, having lifted three Premier League titles, the European Cup, the Carling Cup and the World Club Cup, he spoke of his desire to stay forever.

"I am happy here and I'd sign a new contract at any time," he said in October 2009. "I want to stay at this club for the rest of my career. I will sign an extension any time the club wants me to."

Rooney was regularly pictured kissing United’s badge, particularly when subjected to abuse from the fans of his former club at Goodison Park. On one occasion, when United managed that incredible comeback towards the end of the 2006-2007 season, winning 4-2 after going 2-0 down in the second half, Rooney celebrated in front of his former fans before running to the away end to kiss the badge.

However, in October 2010, Rooney dropped a bombshell and claimed for the sake of his career, it was time to leave Manchester United. He tried to create the story that there was a rift between himself and Sir Alex Ferguson and claimed a meeting with David Gill had left him unconvinced about United’s ability to compete in the future. United’s hated rivals, Manchester City, were his likely destination, with his agent Paul Stretford putting a deal in place. A few days later he changed his mind and had signed a new five year deal and went on to win another league title and scored in the Champions League final a few months later.

Over the past decade or so, at least eight Arsenal players have kissed their badge before moving on. Ashley Cole did it before agreeing to join Chelsea behind Arsenal’s back.

364 days after releasing the statement, Rooney kissed the badge again for the first time since after scoring against Otelul Galati. Now he tends to save the kisses for big games, like after the goal he scored at the Etihad earlier this season, but he seemingly has no issue with pretending to love the club again.

Rooney’s story is just one of hundreds which leaves you scratching your head though. There are so many to choose from.

Over the past decade or so, at least eight Arsenal players have kissed their badge before moving on. Ashley Cole did it before agreeing to join Chelsea behind Arsenal’s back. Reyes did it before claiming he wanted to join Real Madrid so he didn’t have to play alongside the “bad people” at Arsenal anymore. Emmanuel Adebayor did it before leaving them for City, running the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal against them, and then joining hated rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Luis Garcia spent six years at Espanyol before leaving them for Zaragoza. Upon his return to his former ground, Garcia swapped shirts with an opponent after the final and then walked to the touchline to kiss his old club’s crest. I’m sure the travelling Zaragoza were really chuffed.

Ian Wright was quick to kiss the Arsenal badge in front of the fans of his old club, Crystal Palace, after making the move between London clubs. The most hurtful was probably after scoring a goal against them on the final day of the season when they were then relegated in 1993. After seven seasons there he joined West Ham and after scoring his first goal he proudly held up the West Ham badge to the fans. Ten years later, as a pundit, Wright said: “When you’ve been a club five minutes and you kiss the badge, you are just mugging yourself off, you mug!” Indeed.

Craig Gardner made his way up through the ranks at Aston Villa which he claimed was a dream come true, given that he was a diehard Villa fan.

“I signed for Villa when I was 15 and since then these have been the best days of my life,” he said. “I’m a Villa fan. I’ve come through the ranks and nothing can be better. I used to be on the Holte End. When I was watching Villa as a kid there were people like Garry Parker, Dalian Atkinson and Paul McGrath. They were all brilliant. I used to sing their names and now I look at the crowd and they’re chanting my name so it’s great.”As a 23-year-old, he made the move to local rivals Birmingham City though and went on to kiss their badge too.

“Having played for the Villa everyone thinks I’m a Villa fan but I’m a Bluenose,” he then claimed. “I have been all my life. I was a mascot at John Frain’s testimonial. But I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. People who know me, my close friends and family, they all know I’m a Blues fan. As they say: ‘once a blue, always a blue’.” Four weeks after Birmingham were relegated he joined Sunderland and said: “It’s unbelievable. As soon as I found out Sunderland were interested, it was a no-brainer.” Once a blue, always a blue.

Behind every badge kiss is a story and Kissed The Badge brings them all together in one place. From “kissed the badge and made them cry” to “serial kissers”, this website categories and documents every badge kissing moment across the globe.

We love badge kissers. We hate them too.

Read more from Kissed the Badge here

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