Wednesday, February 28, 2007

“Moaning is not my style.” Unless, of Course, it’s in my Shit Book

A Review of Steven Gerrard's My Autobiography

A few weeks ago a good pal loaned me his copy of Steven Gerrard’s My Autobiography. I was excited. Reviews in respected football magazines like FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes have generally acknowledged Gerrard’s book as the best of the lot of biographies that came out authored by English World-Cuppers this summer. If this is the best, however, I advise you to stay away from the literary works of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, and Frank Lampard like the plague. Because Gerard’s book is pretty awful.

My Autobiography is the story of Gerrard’s life from his birth in Liverpool to this summer’s failures with the English World Cup squad. Gerrard has obviously lived an exciting life: he is a footballing hero to millions who has won many trophies (often because of his own heroics) who has made many interesting friends along the way. He has also made scads of money. You wouldn’t know it, however, from this tedious book. (well, except about the money. He generously informs the readers about every wage dispute and salary increase.) The book tells Gerrard’s story as a tedious progression of football matches and football practices, followed by a contract dispute and then more football. It is exceedingly difficult, of course, to describe the beautiful game of football in print, and Gerrard fails miserably. Famously exciting cup finals are, in these pages, reduced to tedious descriptions of Gerrard’s own heroics and stories of his friends and enemies on either side of the touchline.

This is all okay, I guess, since the book isn’t really about football at all; like most football books these days, it’s really about settling scores, both negatively and positively. Gerrard, to his credit, acknowledges that he had lots of help reaching the top and gives us fawning, over-the-top prose describing his parents, friends, and youth coaches as angles selected by God to make sure Steven achieved his chosen fate of playing midfield for Liverpool and England. The biography also serves as the perfect place for Gerrard to skewer his enemies. For Steven an enemy is described as anyone who gave him any sort of hard time on his rise to the top, including mean coaches, the officials who didn’t chose him for the youth England team, and anybody who played for Liverpool who didn’t meet Gerrard’s exacting standards. By the time the reader gets to page 185, when Gerrard claims that “moaning is not my style,” the line is laugh-out-loud funny. Gerrard has been moaning the entire book, about anyone and everything.

Gerrard checks-off all the boxes he has to: he discusses his early days at Liverpool and all the big cup matches, including the ’06 FA cup final and the ’05 Champion’s league final. He has a chapter on the latest World Cup and has his say about coach Eriksson.

The most curious thing I learned about Gerrard was his absolute fascination with defecating in his own pants. Time and time again, he describes “shitting his pants,” be it before a big match, meeting another famous footballer, laughing hard at a good joke, negotiating a contract or, presumably, any other activity that requires a bit of intestinal fortitude. He used the term “shitting my pants” so often that I wondered whether he might think about wearing diapers.

So, anyway, what do we learn about Steven Gerrard from his autobiography? Not much, I think. Here was man who was clearly, from a young age, destined to be a footballer. We don’t get much, however, about what makes him the great football he is, or what he did to make himself the player he is today. His self belief, perhaps, is so strong that he is simply furious at anyone who even temporarily halted his march to the top. That makes a great athlete, perhaps, but it makes a pretty terrible book.

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