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Apart form its current publications, John Blake Publishing has a sizeable back list of acclaimed sporting titles. These include biographies of stars such as Roger Federer, WG Grace, Fernando Torres and Frankie Dettori. For more information, visit www.blake.co.uk



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Steven Gerrard by Adam Cotier

Release date: 30th March, 2006
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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A friend of mine who heads the football academy at a not over-glamorous Football League club maintains with some justification that he performs the club's most important job.

Selecting boys for junior sides at the age of 10 or 11, he must nurture their inherent ability and act as mentor while they hopefully progress up the professional playing ladder. It is a journey fraught with difficulty and inevitably, not everyone makes it. Some are late developers (one well-known Premiership striker taught by my pal didn't start growing until he was 17) while others peak too soon, but occasionally, a handful progress to the first team.

My mate beams with obvious satisfaction as he can name every one of them; others have been sold for big money, a development which, he beams, has probably kept the club in business.

What, I enquired of him recently, are you looking for when a youngster first arrives? "A good player with speed who has the ability to inspire others," was the response.

If such pride in their work is evident in the men who head academies in the lower leagues, how must a former player such as Steve Heighway feel when he reviews the long list of graduates who have passed through Liverpool's famous academy?

Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard are the most prominent stars of the latest batch who emerged almost simultaneously. Is this attributable to good fortune or just hard work?

Owen was perhaps the most naturally gifted of the trio, while Carragher has welded his ability onto a never-say-die attitude that football fans love, but it is Gerrard who provides the necessary drive and determination which makes him a genuine hero and one of the world's most sought-after players.

However, as Adam Cotier shows in Steven Gerrard: Portrait of a Hero it wasn't always like this. Gerrard was clearly talented and committed, but his body experienced spurts of irregular growth which at times made him appear more like Bambi than a hard case from Huyton. Yet even as he was growing up, Gerrard still managed to capture the PFA young player of the year award in 2001; club captaincy would inevitably follow - and who knows what lies in store at international level?

How proud Steve Heighway, who won two European Cups and two UEFA Cups himself, must have been to see his once slightly awkward prodigy lead his side in Istanbul last year.

Famously 3-0 down to AC Milan at half time, it was Steven Gerrard who headed home Liverpool's first goal in the 54th minute. As he raced back to the halfway line, he spread his arms wide, geeing the crowd and his team-mates with a gesture which demanded a response. "Come on, we can do this!" Gerrard's gesture declared.

Within five minutes, Liverpool were level. Gerrard & Co went on to defy the odds and to perform the greatest comeback in sporting history, thus ensuring that this modern day 'captain fantastic' raised the European Cup high for the fifth time in Liverpool's extraordinary history.

An outstanding player? Definitely. Inspirational? Without doubt. A hero? No question. Steven Gerrard has it all and one fancies this entertaining book will be updated in years to come with more tales of success and inspiration. For now though, the story so far is well worth reading as preparation for the next episode in Steven Gerrard's prodigious life.



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