Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s current autobiography is out next month and as is always the case with the big life stories it’s being serialised in the national press. Unfortunately the newspaper he’s chosen is the News of the World, but clearly he’s done that with permission from the club. Although the newspaper is part of the same group as the boycotted S*n, it’s not boycotted itself. The reason the choice is unfortunate is because that newspaper sells most copies through sensationalist headlines, but then again it’s not the only one.
Predictably the emphasis from the national newspaper on its opening day of access to the book is on Gerrard’s England involvement, but it does find a little room to mention his full-time job – as captain of Liverpool Football club. Gerrard says that with both England and Liverpool he’s hoping to have a lot to look forward to: “My future promises so much. Rebuilding with Steve and England. More trophies to chase with Rafael Benítez and Liverpool. One day I’d love to manage Liverpool. For me Liverpool Football Club is a passion that will never end.”
There’s also another run-through of those days surrounding his near-departure to Chelsea. I’ve not yet ventured out to buy the paper, and maybe I won’t, so I’ve only got the word of those who’ve read bits of it out on the TV to go off in regards that part of the story.
With Stevie’s girlfriend in the headlines this weekend after being arrested in a Liverpool nightspot, Gerrard had to give a further interview to the paper. There’s no way a newspaper like the News of the World can go to print and ignore a story like this – it’s just not done. With Gerrard saying a little piece about the incident there’s then no use for the army of so-called “close friends” who normally line up to tell the press what they know. No doubt they’ve found space elsewhere to say their pieces, but Gerrard was glad to talk about his undoubted devotion to Alex, mother of his two girls Lily Ella and Lexie. Gerrard said: “We’ve fixed a date for our wedding next summer. It’s going to be a big bash down south in June with over 200 guests. I’m going to invite all of the England players and all of my Liverpool team-mates.”
At that point, call me cynical, but I do wonder if Gerrard said “England and Liverpool” in that order. It’s a minor thing but one that does tend to get the backs up of many Liverpool fans. I doubt Gerrard did answer as written, so perhaps best not to give the captain too much stick for the printed order of his answers. Gerrard says the kids are going to be playing a big part in the wedding too: “Our two beautiful daughters are going to be bridesmaids. I want Alex to have the best day of her life.”
In terms of the incident involving Alex, Steven was a little reserved, probably on advice from his own legal representatives: “I’m standing by Alex. Obviously with a police investigation going on it would be wrong for me to discuss the incident. We are both shocked by what has happened but we will get through this together. Alex is an adorable person and I can’t wait to marry her.”
Gerrard may well put Liverpool ahead of England, but it doesn’t stop him from feeling cut up about the way he saw his country crash out of the World Cup in the quarter finals to Portugal. He says: “Why did England screw up?” His answer: “I hate using the word but we failed.”
He says the reasons were varied: “The reasons are scattered around. We didn’t keep the ball well, we didn’t take our chances, we took some crap penalties.”
Today’s Community Shield at Cardiff against Chelsea will be decided by penalties if the scores are level at the end of 90 minutes – it remains to be seen if Stevie and Jamie Carragher will step forward to take one, but they’ll still be stinging from their summer misses for England. As Gerrard recalls: “We practised pens every day for six weeks and missed three out of four in Gelsenkirchen. England must overcome this mental block over penalties otherwise we will continue returning home from tournaments. We must use international friendlies to stage practice shoot-outs after the final whistle when the stadium is still full. The England management must consider that. It’s the only realistic way of practising penalties.”
Liverpool’s game today is effectively a pre-season warm-up to the new season, with one more friendly left in midweek before the league season gets under way for 2006-07. There’s certainly a chance in midweek if not today for a few fringe players and some of the youngsters to stake a claim for a place in the starting line-ups for the new season, but when the season starts for real those members of the squad won’t be used without having first been fully assessed by Rafa Benítez and the coaching staff. Gerrard says that not doing these assessments seems to have played a big part in the failure of England. Gerrard does defend the now-departed England head coach to some extent, but read between the lines and he’s as upset about the Swede’s odd decisions as any other England fan: “Of course we knew Sven Goran Eriksson would get coated for England’s failure. He knew it as well. I don’t think he was too cautious, as many people claimed, but I did understand some of the criticism towards him. A few decisions were wrong, like not taking five strikers. He certainly shouldn’t have brought Theo Walcott to Germany.”
The England squad only contained four strikers – Wayne Rooney who still had a broken foot when the tournament began, Michael Owen who had barely had a game since breaking his foot halfway through last season, Walcott who had not yet been risked for a first team by his club Arsenal and Peter Crouch. No matter how Gerrard looks at the decision, he just can’t understand it: “For a tournament as big and demanding as the World Cup every team needs five strikers. Minimum. I wanted to be landing in Germany with five forwards not four. I wanted to be sending this message to the world: we are England packed with attackers and we fear no one. Not only were England embarking on an arduous World Cup campaign with only four forwards but one of them was Theo Walcott.”
It’s the decision to take Walcott that seems to have upset Gerrard the most: “I almost fell over when I heard. Now let’s get one or two things right about Theo. He’s a nice lad and one day he will mature into a very good player, but he had no right to be in Germany. None at all. I was gobsmacked to find him on the plane. My faith is Sven has always been strong but to select a kid who hasn’t played any part in a Premiership game, or a competitive international, was clearly a massive gamble. Asking him to come to the World Cup was unfair on Theo. There was no way the kid was ready to perform on such a massive stage.”
He continues: “Even now, as I get stuck into the new season and the World Cup summer fades away, my mind remains confused as to Sven’s thinking. Theo was just not ready. Even if the seven leading English strikers had been injured it would still have been a risk to take him to the World Cup. As well as Theo, Sven also didn’t seem to have any intention of using certain players. In midfield we had three or four guys who were really, really similar. Sven never showed any interest in playing some of them so why bring them to Germany? Take those that are going to play — and another forward!”
Perhaps Gerrard will get his wish one day and become manager of the Reds – if he sticks to his beliefs as they are now then it sounds like it will be an entertaining side, but we’ve a few years to wait yet. And no doubt some more autobiographies as he moves through further phases of his life.
* Gerrard: My Autobiography by Steven Gerrard will be out in hardcover, published by Bantam Press, on 2nd September 2, priced at £18.99. The book is currently being serialised in the News of The World and is copyright © Steven Gerrard 2006.