It is a strange feeling to see the footballers you grew up watching start to drift away, either to go to the MLS or retire. Today the talismanic figure of Steven Gerrard graces the Anfield turf as a player one last time.
You may be sick of the outpouring of affection for Gerrard, but I would argue it is more than deserved. The one comeback people who love to hate is “but he didn’t win the Premier League.” He knows that himself and admitted it is his biggest regret this week, not having that title to his name. But just imagine Liverpool without Steven Gerrard…
Gerrard was made captain at the age of just 23, but before this he had proved himself as a pivotal player scoring in the 2001 UEFA Cup final. After this he has had some of the biggest moments in Liverpool’s recent history. Without Gerrard it is doubtful Liverpool would have grasped the FA Cup final in 2006 when he broke West Ham’s hearts scoring and hauling his team through with passion, and having the composure to slot home in the penalty shoot out too. His refusal to give up is always inspiring and captured in the stunning and key Olympiakos goal which ultimately led Liverpool to their Istanbul triumph…
I suspect ‘the’ Gerrard moment will always be the Champions League final in 2005. 3.0 down to AC Milan at half time, he leapt high into the night heading the ball home for the goal that started the comeback, his arms beckoning his team mates around him to come on. After Vladimir Smicer scored the goal of his career, Gerrard sensed the vulnerability of AC Milan and surged into the box, going down and winning a penalty. The rest is history as the game went to extra time at 3.3 and then penalties. Stevie G would always have been a Liverpool great without this game, but his performance secured legendary status and that coveted European trophy.
I read his book a few years ago, where he wrote about the temptation of leaving Merseyside for Stamford Bridge. I have read countless times on social media this week of how, if he had gone to Chelsea, he would have that Premier League medal. He would have, but in his book he eloquently explained why he hadn’t gone and it was down to his father, who had pointed out if he left who back at home would want to see his medal? Liverpool wouldn’t care for it. That sums Gerrard up, such passion for one club which I find hugely admirable in today’s money rinsed football climate. I also couldn’t have seen him playing with Frank Lampard in that Chelsea midfield, it never really clicked for England so one of them would have been sacrificed.
The disappointing thing is I feel Gerrard had at least another season in him at Liverpool, but he acknowledge he didn’t want to be a bit part player. He has proved in the last few games he still has it, that unwillingness to roll over, to accept defeat, again captured as he headed home for The Reds against Chelsea last week. He marshaled the midfield and looked sharp, and looked gutted to be taken off.
I was surprised when Gerrard announced he was heading stateside to play for LA Galaxy, as he wrote in his book how he got very homesick away from Merseyside, but perhaps now he craves the relative anonymity he will be afforded out there compared to here. A different lifestyle awaits a true footballing great. A man who has led on the pitch by example, never giving less than 100%. He leaves with 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, a UEFA Cup and European Cup.
But most of all he leaves his boyhood club as a legend, which in many ways is worth more than a Premier League medal.