The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was only a week away and England’s players were enjoying — or enduring — a training camp in the sweltering heat and humidity of Miami in the USA, the perfect place to prepare for the challenge of taking on Italy in Manaus in the Amazonian rainforest.
The emphasis, they kept saying, was about learning to be “comfortable being uncomfortable”.
This was easier said than done. The British consul general in Miami had warned them, “We’ve got an open Bikram yoga studio here — it’s called ‘South Florida’.”
Steven Gerrard walked off the training pitch at Miami’s Barry University that afternoon looking like he was ready to drop. He had just turned 34 and, more than most of his team-mates, he was feeling the strain.
As he trudged towards the dressing rooms, he was greeted by a familiar face: Christian Purslow, Liverpool’s former managing director, who was on holiday nearby and had dropped in to say hello. There was a clasp of sweaty palms, a slap on the back and Gerrard’s anguished expression softened as they sat down.
It was surprising to see such bonhomie between Gerrard and a Harvard-educated investment banker and private equity specialist who had been at Liverpool during a turbulent period at the end of the previous decade. But they shot the breeze for what seemed like an age.
Eventually, they said their goodbyes — another clasp of sweaty palms, another slap on the back — and went their separate ways.
On his way out, Purslow came over for a chat with a few of us journalists. Among other things, he mentioned what an exceptional person, as well as an exceptional player, Gerrard was.