Liverpool and its Gerrard woes

Published : Jan 17, 2009 00:00 IST

Steven Gerrard is always a vigorous competitor, but neither on nor off the field could he be considered a violent man. Yet, the history of himself and his family is strangely intertwined with violent people, writes Brian Glanville.

Liverpool. A strange, hard, humorous city. Famous for footballers, criminals and comedians. Though there has been nothing very funny about the Steve Gerrard affair which had him arrested in the early hours of a Monday morning, kept 20 hours in a police station, and charged with a couple of his misguided chums with assault and affray. All this so soon after he had played superbly for Liverpool at Newcastle where he had scored two and his team five.

What happened in the restaurant-cum-night club in Southport, close to Liverpool, is not wholly clear, but we can get the general picture. Gerrard was in there, alas, with a bunch of his pals from the Liverpool district of Huyton, when he asked the part time disc jockey, a local businessman called Marcus McGee, to play him a request number. To which the reply was that the DJ didn’t play requests.

There then appears to have been some kind of a contretemps between footballer and DJ, though it isn’t clear who shoved whom first. What we do hear from eye witnesses is that Gerrard used his elbow on the man, the DJ swore at him at which, no doubt feeling, however irrationally, that they were defending their hero, his friends piled in and attacked McGee. Certainly he bore the marks of the conflict; he had to go to hospital to have stitches put in his head, which had seemingly been hit with a beer bottle, while he had also lost a tooth. On January 23, in the magistrates’ court at North Sefton, the trial. The charges, if proved, could carry a five-year sentence, but one can hardly see Gerrard having to endure that. Indeed, I have an odd idea that he might even escape with a fine, though his loyal but aggressive friends could be in greater trouble.

Gerrard is always a vigorous competitor, but neither on nor off the field could he be considered a violent man. Yet, the history of himself and his family is strangely intertwined with violent people. As a daily paper headline cogently put it: “A squeaky clean family with friends in low places.”

Not that a notoriously brutal criminal called George Bromley junior, alarmingly nicknamed ‘psycho’ and currently serving a long prison term for drug dealing, could be, to the remotest degree, called a friend. He it was who, some five years ago, threatened and attempted to extort money from Gerrard, only going as far as to smash up his car. Seemingly aggrieved over the fact that both of them had been involved with the same girl.

The astonishing sequel took place in Lincoln crown court, some five years ago, when another well-known Liverpudlian gangster, one John Kinsella, was on trial for tying up a security guard and stealing £41000. At the trial, a letter to the court was read out from Gerrard’s father, Paul, which pleaded for clemency for Kinsella on the grounds that he had protected his son from the menaces of Bromley.

“We were at our wits’ end,” said the letter, “when we were introduced by a family friend to John Kinsella. From that time, we have never had any more problems from the Liverpool underworld.”

Really? Then what of the time in the close season of 2004 when all seemed done and dusted for Gerrard, hardly starving now on £120,000 a week, was supposed to be going to Chelsea, where the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was in power. Suddenly, Gerrard changed his mind, saying that he would, after all, remain with Liverpool. The rumour was that certain hard men of the city had persuaded him that it would not be safe to leave.

Criss cross, criss cross. Five years back, the father of one of Steven Gerrard’s girlfriends was given a long gaol sentence for possessing 5000 ecstasy tablets and a gun. By the way, Steven’s father need never have bothered to write that letter since Kinsella broke out of the court and was up and away when it sentenced him, in his absence, to 14 years in gaol.

Gerrard’s wife, Alex, who once worked as a fingernail technician, whatever that is, was previously involved with yet another local gangster, in the shape of one Tony Richardson. But partners changed. Richardson abandoned Alex for a girl called Jennifer Ellison, whose previous boyfriend was none other than Steven Gerrard.

Liverpool criminals, meanwhile, are prone to prey on rich footballers; not least in the case of Gerrard, when they are playing abroad with their club or country. The unfortunate Alex was the victim of a terrifying raid a year ago, when her husband was playing in France. Four men masked in balaclavas stole jewellery from the house.

Well might a daily newspaper head its article about this complex scene with the words: “A squeaky clean family with friends in low places.” Some of those so-called friends have arguably been responsible for the plight in which Steven Gerrard finds himself now. Had they not been in the night club, or been of a less bellicose disposition, one imagines that Gerrard’s little disagreement with the disc jockey would have passed over without any great drama. It’s been suggested as we know that McGee may have sworn at Gerrard, thus precipitating the assault by his friends. Afterwards, Gerrard was held for 20 hours in the police station, before being released on bail.

His predicament, however, is hardly comparable with what has happened of late to another Liverpudlian footballer, Joey Barton of Manchester City, gaoled for a vicious, unprovoked, drunken attack on a young man in Liverpool city centre, given a suspended sentence for an attack on a Manchester City colleague in training, once guilty of stubbing out his cigar in the eye of a young City colleague.

He’s with Newcastle United now, but injury has kept him out of the game for many weeks. His step brother, meanwhile, is serving life for killing a wholly innocent young black victim in a Liverpool park. Yet Liverpool is the city which over many years has produced more fine, funny comedians than any in Britain.

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