Footballer’s autobiographies are often toothless, insipid recollections of career highlights. Oftentimes it’s because they’re written mid-career, or at the very least, while the player is still active in the game; how can they name and shame their peers, past and present, if they might be required to work with them again? That’s why Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent memoir – his second – was so disappointing. It not only lacked the tactical insight I’d hoped for, but it was altogether tame, barely reminiscent of the fiery Scotsman football fans had grown accustomed to seeing on their television screens week in and out. Not that I wanted Ferguson to lambast players and managers; I just wanted honest, raw opinions; not the tepidness that eventuated on the page. Of course, you should take my opinion with a grain of salt. I’m a Liverpool fan, after all; it’s not in my blood to praise the leader of our rival.
So, that said, I delved into Steven Gerrard’s second autobiography with a touch of trepidation. This man is a legend to the club I follow; whose verve and drive I’ve always admired, and whose loyalty will be remembered forever. This is a player who could’ve played football for any club in the world, and could have – possibly should have – won a shedload more trophies than he acquired at Liverpool. I don’t have many sporting heroes, but Gerrard is one of the few. So I wanted his book to be good. I wanted it to be enlightening, and to dive deep into his psyche. I wanted that emotion, that passion, to resonate on the page. And thanks, in no small part I’m sure to his co-writer Donald McRae, My Story is exactly that. There are no great revelations here; nothing I’d highlight and plaster on the back pages (although exerts have been published in various media, so what do I know…); it’s just a heartfelt, emotive retelling of the last few years of Steven Gerrard’s career, with some flashbacks to the highlights; Istanbul, the 2006 FA Cup Final, etc.
Gerrard’s excitement at the prospect of challenging for the Barclays Premier League title in the 2013-14 season is palpable. Reliving the games, the last-minute goals, the heroics of Suarez and Sturridge, pumped my veins with adrenaline. My stomach churned, I gripped the book tighter I read Gerrard’s recount of the key moments; then my stomach plummeted when he described his fateful slip against Chelsea, and the collapse against Crystal Palace. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Gerrard doesn’t hold back. He’s ruthless in his analysis. This is a man who strives for perfection, who is aware he carries the hopes and dreams of all the supporters standing in the Kop; who expect so much of him, more than they do of any other player. He admits, too, his failures in an England shirt; not necessarily individually, but as a collective. The Golden Generation – Owen, Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard – failed to live up to their billing. He doesn’t shy away from this. If My Story reveals anything, it’s how self-aware, and how critical Gerrard is of himself. And also, just how much he loves Liverpool; the club, the place, and the people. There is little loyalty left in football; Gerrard is one of the last of his kind.
My Story is a compelling, easy read. It reminded me of just how special Steven Gerrard was, as a person and a player. It’s made me realise just how much I’ll miss seeing him in a Liverpool shirt.