Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard first caught the eye of the club's scouts playing for Whiston Juniors aged nine. Eight years later, after a period as a trainee, he signed his first professional contract.
Within 12 months the starlet had made his first-team debut, coming on as a second-half sub for Vegard Heggem against Blackburn Rovers on November 29, 1998. The following week Gerard Houllier gave him a first start when the Reds travelled to White Hart Lane.
Gerrard played 13 games in his debut season, in part due to the injury woes of fellow midfielder Jamie Redknapp.
Persistent back and groin problems punctuated his blossoming career, though he'd managed to establish himself as a first-team regular by the start of the 1999-00 season.
It proved to be a momentous campaign for the Whiston-born youngster, not least because of a spectacular first professional goal at Anfield against Sheffield Wednesday. England coach Kevin Keegan was starting to take note.
Having already featured at under-18 and under-21 level, Gerrard was handed his first senior international cap against Ukraine on May 31, 2000. From there he was selected for Euro 2000 in Holland and Belgium, but had to settle for just a single substitute appearance.
By now the Liverpool number eight was regarded by many as the complete midfielder, and he was instrumental in the Reds winning a unique treble in 2000-01.
With the Worthington and FA Cups already in the bag, Gerrard was one of the scorers in an unforgettable 5-4 UEFA Cup final victory over Alaves. It came as no surprise when the man nicknamed the Huyton Hammer was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.
The milestones were starting to stack up for Gerrard, who kicked off the following season by netting his first international goal in the famous 5-1 trouncing of Germany in their own backyard.
The win helped Sven's men secure a World Cup place, but heartbreak followed when a groin injury ruled the midfield maestro out of Japan and South Korea.
A disappointing domestic season followed, the highlight of which was a Worthington Cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Gerrard opened the scoring in a satisfying 2-0 win over Manchester United. By the start of the 2003-04 season, the midfielder had firmly established himself as Liverpool's on-field leader, and it was no surprise when Houllier handed him the captain's armband in place of Sami Hyypia.
The decision proved such a success that within six months Gerrard was captaining England against Sweden in the absence of David Beckham.
Just when it seemed things couldn't get any better for the Scouser, they did. In 2004-05, under new boss Rafa Benitez, Gerrard lifted the club's fifth European Cup.
Having already brought Liverpool back from the brink earlier in the campaign with a last-gasp strike against Olympiacos, the skipper helped inspire the greatest comeback of all time in Istanbul.
No one believed the Reds could overturn AC Milan's 3-0 half-time lead - until Stevie G's 54th minute header, that is.
His heroics earned him the title of UEFA's Most Valuable Player in 2004-05, as well as a nomination for the prestigious Ballon D'Or award. He would come third in the latter, behind Ronaldinho and countryman Frank Lampard.
In the months that followed the final, the Reds' star player signed a new four-year contract at Anfield to put an end to speculation about his future.
The 2005-06 season was perhaps Gerrard's most impressive to date, scoring 23 goals in 53 games and being crowned PFA Player of the Year. He was the first Liverpool man to win the award since John Barnes in 1988.
The season culminated with another FA Cup win in Cardiff, with West Ham providing the opposition. If 1953 will always be remembered as the Stanley Matthews final, then 2006 will surely go down as Gerrard's day.
The captain twice breached Shaka Hislop's net, including a dramatic equaliser in the dying moments to send the game into extra-time and, ultimately, penalties. This 35-yard volley was voted Match of the Day's Goal of the Season.
Gerrard - who's played in just about every position for Liverpool - had now scored in four major finals, something no English-based player had ever done.
Next, in the summer of 2006 and aged 26, the midfielder featured in his first World Cup. After scoring twice in the group stages, he was one of three players to miss a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out loss to Portugal.
In the wake of defeat and Beckham standing down, Gerrard was widely tipped to be the next England skipper. New boss Steve McLaren eventually plumped for Chelsea centre-back John Terry, with the Liverpool man having to settle for the vice-captaincy.
The Kop idol returned from Germany for another eventful domestic season during which he broke Ian Rush's European Cup goalscoring record. His header against PSV was his 15th in the competition, one more than the legendary striker.
In December 2006, Gerrard was awarded an MBE, which he later collected from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
As if all this wasn't enough, the season ended with another European Cup final, and again it was AC Milan.
The Reds might have lost 2-1 in Athens, but Gerrard was more than happy to pen a new four-year contract to keep him at Anfield until 2011.