WHEN he watches former strike partner Wayne Rooney scoring for England, there must be a tinge of regret.

But now Michael Symes is focused on bagging the goals that will earn him a contract at Accrington Stanley for next season.

While Rooney emerged from the team that reached the FA Youth Cup final to star for Everton, Manchester United and his country, a succession of injuries meant Symes never made it to the first team at Goodison Park.

Now 25, Symes joined Stanley on a month’s loan from Shrewsbury Town two weeks ago, on the day Paul Mullin joined Bradford City on loan.

Replacing a club legend is some task, but Symes has already impressed Reds fans in a new partnership with Craig Lindfield.

And now he wants to end a 16-game drought and notch his first Stanley goal as he bids to secure his future.

“Everyone’s been all right here,” said Symes, born in Great Yarmouth but in possession of the Liverpool accent to fit in at his new club.

“I already knew a couple of the lads and I was with Craig when I was on loan at Bournemouth.

“I know Paul (Mullin) scored a lot of goals here, so people expect he will be replaced and someone will score as many goals as him. But I haven’t really thought about that.

“I haven’t had many games – I didn’t really have the chance a Shrewsbury – so I just wanted to come here and bag some goals.

“I would like to come here next year. I’ve enjoyed it, so we’ll just see what happens at the end of the season. I’m out of contract at Shrewsbury and we haven’t been told what’s happening yet, but I don’t think I’ll be staying so obviously I’ve got to look elsewhere.

“My performances have been okay here. I just need to start putting a couple of goals in. It’s your job, isn’t it? You’ve got to score goals.

“As long as you’re doing your bit for the team, then I think the gaffer will be pleased. But it tops it off for yourself if you can get a goal.”

Symes’ loan deal is currently due to expire on April 20, although that could yet be extended to cover the remaining two games of the season.

He was very much the senior strike partner in that Everton youth team of 2002, but even then the talent possessed by Rooney – two years his junior – was obvious.

Symes said: “We did well that year and got to the Youth Cup final, and were unlucky to get beat by Villa.

“I played with Wayne for a couple of years. You could tell at that age he was special.

“He used to get a couple of days off school in the week to come and train with us when he was only 14 and he was unbelievable then.

“We knew he was going to be the player he is today.”