This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.
By Henry Winter
Those starlets climbing the academy ladder should read the self-assessment that Steven Gerrard wrote during his formative years at Liverpool.
Gerrard's honest appraisal, his highlighting of flaws as well as strong points, reveals his understanding that players are not made overnight. A first professional contract does not imply arrival.
As the debate continues into how to enhance player-development, breeding more England captains of the future, the incumbent's teenaged mission statement is enlightening.
Those who think of themselves admiringly as the finished article at 17 or 18 might think again.
Gerrard's constant craving for success, and appreciation of the need for hard work and listening to coaches, shines through the then 17-year-old's handwritten critique. The hunger shaping every sentence was subsequently seen everywhere from Istanbul to Cardiff via Anfield.
It is why Gerrard will be captain of the England squad that Roy Hodgson names on Thursday for the Wembley friendly with Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday week. It is why he is a contender for the England player of the year to be announced in the presence of Pele at St George's Park next weekend.
Others shortlisted are Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole and Danny Welbeck. (In truth, a very painful truth, 2012 was hardly a vintage year for England and the best sequence of performances, John Terry's four-game excellence at the Euros, has been overlooked).
Gerrard's rise to riches was gradual. Having impressed for Liverpool's under-16s, he was awarded a YTS contract on £50 a week by the then academy director, Steve Heighway.
Two years later, Heighway and the first-team manager, Roy Evans, gave Gerrard his first pro contract, a three-year deal on £700 a week for the first year, then £800 and finally £900. His development was rewarded judiciously by Liverpool.
He had good coaches like Heighway, Dave Shannon and Hughie McAuley as mentors. As part of the learning process, they asked the teenager to fill in a two-page self-assessment, judging himself as a person and a player.
"People who are close to me would probably say I was caring, kind but always takes the Mickey and loves a laugh and a joke,'' Gerrard wrote. "I am easily approachable but not the best at conversation although I do try and I am improving. Try to get on with everyone.
"Also likes to be bossy on the field. As a player I would describe myself as a winner, good passer and like to tackle. The coaches would say that there are no doubts on my footballing ability but I need to learn to control my temper and my patience on the field."
Such was the wild nature of Gerrard's tackling during training in his early days that Heighway spoke to his father about why his son was so angry. Liverpool even sent Gerrard to see a psychologist.
The issue may stem from his early experiences, playing against older, stronger lads on his Huyton estate. He had to prove himself. In games for Liverpool, Gerrard was soon flying into everyone from Everton's Kevin Campbell and Gary Naysmith, Chelsea's Dennis Wise and Graeme Le Saux to Aston Villa's George Boateng.
After listening to Gary McAllister, Gerrard started tackling with one foot rather than two. It has taken time but that self-assessment at least disclosed an awareness of the problem with indiscipline.
He noted other faults. "Weaknesses maybe on the fitness side as I tend to pick up a lot of injuries,'' added Gerrard, who was still growing, picking up too many groin injuries eventually linked to his back.
"My aim this year is to avoid injury and get a good run of games under my belt.
"My ambition for the future is definitely to play for the first team. I have three seasons left on my current contract and hopefully I can break through then, if not I would like a new contract to keep pushing for a place. In five years' time I see myself hopefully playing first-team football, settled with a girlfriend, talking of houses and family etc."
He declared his interests as "friends, cinemas and music", particularly "dance, Beatles, The Verve". His favourite programmes were "Only Fools and Horses, They Think It's All Over and Match of the Day".
Having listed what he hoped the coaches thought of him, Gerrard added: "I hope they think I am a good lad off the field, too." He's made occasional mistakes off the field, but is regularly praised for being grounded. "Do tend to worry about certain things," he added.
Gerrard can be slightly introverted, reflective, certainly self-critical. Even now, even after 100 caps and Champions League glory, Gerrard feels he could have done more, can still do more.
Restlessness seems to seep through him. He stills worries. There is a frustration at a lack of fulfilment in certain areas.
Of the new breed of young England professional, the one closest to the 32-year-old's driven DNA is Jack Wilshere, a competitor owning the requisite mental strengths as well as technical.
England need more like Wilshere and Gerrard. It might help if Gerrard's self-assessment were placed on the curriculum at every academy.