Wayne has dominated the sports headlines for more than a decade — but what of life off the pitch? As he launches the NSPCC’s Little Stars campaign in aid of abused and neglected children, the football icon and father-of-three gives a rare and personal glimpse into life at home — and explains why he’s dedicating an Oxford Street light to some very special little people this Christmas.
Why did you want to get involved with the NSPCC?
Seeing what they do, it was important for me to bring some awareness to the NSPCC’s work, and to the kids. Sometimes children feel they have no voice, but they actually have — and if I can help in any way to make sure they actually understand that, and that there’s people out there willing to help them, I will.
You met some of the volunteers at various NSPCC centres — was that insightful?
Yeah, it was obviously great to meet them — the work they do is incredible. They don’t get paid for doing it — they’re doing it off their own back. They deserve all the recognition in the world. The work they do really does save lives.
Before you got involved with the NSPCC had you met anyone who had suffered from abuse or neglect in your life?
Yes, I had — obviously I don’t want to say too much but it’s sad the effect it has on children and also as they grow up into their adult life. So it was important for me to get involved and try and help in any way. I’ve never experienced any bullying myself but obviously it’s still happening to a lot of kids today and the more help they can get the better.
There’s been a spate of bullies filming their attacks on victims recently — what message would you send to any children who are being bullied?
I think just speak out — tell your teachers, your parents, a responsible adult, whoever that may be. That’s the only way it’s going to stop. You need to communicate and be open. If you stay quiet then you’ll suffer in silence. Before you know it, it could be too late.
You have three young children yourself — what’s your biggest worry as a parent?
I don’t worry — but obviously you see a lot of things happening in the world, and you realise there is only so much you can do for them. They’re not in your care 24 hours a day, so if you leave them with other people you have to trust that those people will take care of them as you would. You hear sad stories all year round, but hopefully the good people in the world will try and help.
Do you ever worry about cyber-bullying and other online dangers?
Yes — we put the parental controls on and only let them play with kids’ stuff. We’ve never had any problems with online issues, but they are there. You can go on the internet and technically go on whatever you want, so it’s important as a parent you monitor it even if you’ve put controls in place.
Who do you turn to for parenting advice?
We just do things as we see fit and whatever we think is the best way. There are a lot of things, in terms of the way we’ve been brought up, that have helped us out and we’ve tried to carry on setting those examples. We just try to be the best we can and treat every day as a new day.
Were you ever smacked as a child?
Yes, I had the occasional smack, probably when I deserved it [laughs], but it wasn’t something my parents did regularly. I think the right way to deal with your kids if they are being a bit naughty is to talk to them. It’s so important.
Do you have a naughty step at home?
No, we did have one but we haven’t used it for a while now. We realised it wasn’t working!
Who does the telling off at home out of you and Coleen?
Erm, probably me — I’m stricter!
For more information on the campaign and to name your Little Stars for someone special, please visit here: nspcc.org.uk/littlestars