How a 12-year-old showed the talent which took him to the top
LIVERPOOL midfielder Steven Gerrard capped a remarkable rise to England stardom when he made an impressive late appearance as a substitute in the crucial Euro 2000 win over Germany on Saturday. But Gerrard's emergence as a key member of Kevin Keegan's squad is no surprise to the ECHO's schools sports writer TIM JOHNSON. Here, Tim recalls how he first heard about the talented youngster eight years ago . . .
I FIRST became aware of Steven Gerrard in 1992 when the head of PE at Cardinal Heenan HS, Eric Chadwick, told me of a gifted 12-year-old footballer they had.
I was to be the manager of the Liverpool Schools U-14 team [ picture ]when Steven reached that age and I remembered the name and looked forward to having him as a member of the squad.
His talent could not be held back and the school nominated him for the city team 12 months earlier than expected and he became a player at the age of 13.
The most impressive feature of Steven's play at the time was his speed of thought.
He could evaluate a situation and take advantage quicker than any schools footballer that I had seen. He also had the basic technical skill to put his thoughts smoothly into operation.
The young Gerrard was also a very good tackler. Even when playing against bigger boys he had the courage to put his foot in and win the ball and that skill he quite obviously retains today.
After a season with the older boys he joined the U-15s city team, of which I was now manager.
The team contained Adam Farley (Everton FC), Mike O'Brien (schoolboy international and Torquay United) and Wayne McDermott (Nuneaton Borough). But this was not to be Steven's happiest football season.
Initially things went well and I can remember him scoring the winning goal against West Lancs in the English Trophy and then run into the corner producing a Klinsman-like dive in celebration.
Owing to injury he failed to win an England Schoolboy Cap, the only level he has not received internal recognition, and he was being pursued by a host of Premier League clubs for his signature.
The team went out of the English Trophy at the quarter-final stage and Steven signed for Liverpool FC and set about the task of becoming a professional footballer.
I have met him occasionally since those early days and he always has a handshake and a smile.
It would have been impossible to forecast even 12 months ago that he would be in the England team in Euro 2000. I am delighted for him and, on behalf of Liverpool Schoolboys, wish him the very best of luck.
© Liverpool Daily Post & Echo