In a way the timing of this book is something of a surprise. It is not that long ago that the hardback "Gerrard : My Autobiography" was published and since then there has also been a paperback "Steven Gerrard : My Story" and "Steven Gerrard : My Captain's Book (Secrets Behind The Armband)". That Headline have decided to publish yet another book with the same subject is probably down to the player's marketability. Even in his 33rd year, Liverpool's skipper remains one of the iconic figures of world football, despite injury restricting him to only 52 club appearances in the last two seasons, a total he would previously have expected to reach in a single season. The player himself explains the reasoning behind bringing out this sort of book now: "I am presented with countless opportunities to do books about my career. I usually turn them down flat. However, the chance to tell "My Liverpool Story" through my words and the photographs which frame my life was too good a chance to overlook".
So this book is different from others previously published. Whilst you would expect a book about a footballer's life to have a selection of photographs in the middle of it summarising the man's career, "My Liverpool Story" has excellent colour photographs on nearly every page, many of which have not been seen before. Furthermore, reading the comments that come with each glossy picture, I initially had no doubt that they were the player's own words and not words conjured up by some ghostwriter.
Gerrard's career is covered in fifteen chapters, all bar the first covering a single football season from the time he made his debut in Liverpool's first team in November 1998. Chapter One (1980-1998) merely summarises his early life and the journey he made on the way to that first-team debut. Steven acknowledges that personal praise from Jamie Redknapp gave him a massive boost, Jamie having watched him represent the club's A-team for the first time and immediately forecasting that he would "walk into Liverpool's first team". Also, the quick progress Michael Owen made had both inspired him and driven him forward. They had known each other since before they were teenagers and the young Gerrard honestly admits that he "wanted to get to where he was as quickly as he had done it". Inevitably, the chapters covering seasons in which Liverpool won trophies are examined more closely than those that were trophy-less.
At around the time this book was being printed, Steven Gerrard had just been sent off for the first time as an England player, this following six dismissals for his club. The man who would go on to captain both his club and his country recognised that there were many occasions as a teenager when he "crossed the line" on the football pitch. But once he broke through into senior football, it became more important than ever that he didn't become the "liability" he admits he was earlier. Fortunately, the coaching staff at his club were able to get him into a mindset where he could "channel his talents more efficiently". Gerrard accepts that his will to win did not involve intentionally trying to hurt opponents but that "I wanted to be a success so much that my temperament boiled over". Similar honesty is shown as he assesses other parts of his game like being awarded the captaincy, his relationship with the different Liverpool managers he served under and the attempts other clubs, notably Chelsea, made to prise him away from the club he had always supported.
It has long been my belief that a committed supporter is likely to remember big games and big moments better than most players who appeared in such matches and moments. With Gerrard being such a strong supporter of Liverpool Football Club as well as its leader on the pitch, it is therefore rather surprising to read him talking about Fernando Morientes scoring early in the 2005 League cup final (when it was actually John Arne Riise) and that, according to him, Neil Mellor came on at half-time as a substitute in the crucial 2004 Champions League match against Olympiakos at Anfield (when Mellor was not actually introduced until twelve minutes from time). One picture I had not seen before taken from the same season (2004-05) has a caption describing Gerrard's fierce free-kick that "flew past Portsmouth's David James in front of the Kop". The beaten goalkeeper was actually Jamie Ashdown. That made me start to wonder if Gerrard had actually written the captions himself because he was an international team-mate of David James for many years and so he ought to have known when he had scored past him at club level. If he did indeed write the captions, then someone neglected to check them all for accuracy. Such errors are unlikely to bother a Steven Gerrard fan or indeed most Liverpool fans. But they will bother a statistician or firm LFC aficionado. However, it is likely that this book is aimed at `ordinary' Liverpool supporters not statisticians. On the whole they will not be disappointed because, a few factual inaccuracies apart, it provides a fascinating pictorial record and summary of one of the greatest players ever to represent the club in its long and illustrious history.