Jamie Redknapp has recalled the story of Steven Gerrard’s first training session at Liverpool, that saw the young midfielder make a big statement to the senior squad.
Redknapp had been part of the Reds’ first team for seven seasons prior to Gerrard’s breakthrough in 1998, having established himself as a key player throughout the ’90s.
He was part of Gerard Houllier’s first-choice midfield in 1998/99, alongside Paul Ince, in a campaign that also saw youngsters Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and David Thompson feature regularly.
Gerrard was called into training from the academy ahead of his eventual debut in the 2-0 win over Blackburn towards the end of the year, and made a big impression.
Speaking to Gerrard and Carragher as part of Sky Sports’ Football Show, Redknapp revealed how the young midfielder had convinced him he was “a special one” in his first session.
“Stevie and Stephen Wright joined in that day, and normally when you get a young player the first thing they do is keep it simple,” he said.
“He went flying in to Paul Ince, smashed him up in the air” ?
Jamie Redknapp tells the story of Steven Gerrard’s first ever training session with the Liverpool first team
“I remember the first minute of the game, we were playing in the same side, I passed it into you hoping you’d just set it back and I’d make a pass out wide.
“You just turned and hit this pass, and the flight of the ball, I was like ‘wow, did I just hear that right?’. It was like a different noise!
“And then about five minutes later you went flying into Paul Ince and you smashed him up in the air and I was like ‘we’ve got a special one here!’.
“I remember Gerard Houllier after coming up to me and saying ‘what do you think about Stephen Wright?’.
“I was like ‘yeah, yeah good player…but the other kid’s the one, he is going to be different class’.
“And obviously the career you went on to have was just incredible, but we knew it straight away. The way you played, the way that you struck a ball, it was just completely different to anyone else.”
Reflecting on Redknapp’s memories from Melwood, Gerrard explained why he was so eager to make a big impact, and how this mentality perhaps differs to young players moving up now.
“That was my opportunity,” he responded.
“I think these young kids when they get the opportunity to train with the first team they just come over and train normally, and they don’t really think of how important that day is.
“For me, that was my trial, my opportunity to show I was capable of being on the same pitch as you guys.
“I’d watched you for many, many years, your technique, how you did it, how you lived on and off the pitch. Incey was also a big hero of mine as well.
“I’m not sure that I should say this but I had you two in my sights.
“I think these young players now have to come into these environments and think ‘who’s in front of me?’, ‘who do I have to move?’ and ‘I’m not going to get many opportunities to try and move them’.
“So any opportunity I got to train with the first team, that was the biggest moment of my life, because my dream was to be the No. 1 midfielder for Liverpool.
“Whoever was in my way, I wanted to set them a challenge there and then.”