20100407

Gerrard story desperate for successful new chapter


Review: by William Sansome

For Steven Gerrard, this season has been one of epic disappointment.

Last season's runners-up spot was the closest Liverpool have come for some time to a first domestic title since 1990. Yet this campaign’s challenge fell abysmally short long ago while their prospects of competing in the Champions League next year seem fainter by the day.

The Huyton-born England man has also watched Fabio Capello choose Rio Ferdinand as the successor to John Terry as England captain, despite his own credentials being arguably more compelling.

All this as the Liverpool and England midfielder nears the end of his prime years, with the possibility of having to leave his beloved Anfield to pursue further glory becoming ever more real.

But out of adversity often springs success and for Gerrard, who will be 30 in less than two months' time, this has been a defining aspect of his career. His autobiography, Gerrard: My Autobiography, winner of ‘Sports Book of the Year’ at the British Book Awards in 2007, brilliantly describes the far from straightforward path to stardom he has taken.

His career was nearly finished at the age of nine, when he kicked a garden fork during a kick-about on a field near his home, almost leading to his toe being amputated.

Crucially, though, his reaction to the loss of his cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, illustrates his determination to motivate himself through adversity. Gilhooley, sharing Gerrard’s passion for Liverpool, was one of the 96 people killed in the Hillsborough disaster. He travelled to the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest but never returned and Gerrard has been inspired by the untimely death of his cousin every time he has donned the Liverpool red since.

This passion may well be the factor that keeps him at Anfield for his whole career, and certainly influenced his decision to refuse the approaches of Chelsea in 2006, another subject covered in detail in the book.

There are candid accounts of Gerrard’s feelings over setbacks he had to overcome. As a schoolboy at Liverpool he battled in the shadow of ‘boy wonder’ Michael Owen to establish himself, and to become a leading world footballer he had to recover from the bitter disappointment of being ruled out of the 2002 World Cup through injury.

Finally, in leading Liverpool to their greatest triumph in the Premier League era, in the 2005 Champions League final, he not only motivated himself but was able to rally the dressing room in what seemed like a hopeless situation. Liverpool’s fifth-place finish, below Merseyside rivals Everton, had meant there was no guarantee of future Champions League football and AC Milan’s 3-0 half-time lead in the final looked unassailable.

With all this in mind, no one would rule out Gerrard reacting to this stagnant Liverpool season by inspiring his country to glory in South Africa, a feat which will inevitably demand a postscript to his gripping life story.

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