As Steven Gerrard looks set to cut ties with Liverpool FC, ending a 28-year association with the club, Adam Washbrook pays tribute to his club’s inspirational captain.
As an 18 year old, Steven Gerrard has been a part of Liverpool Football Club for literally as long as I can remember. Never did I ever imagine having to even contemplate discussing the moment that the hero of an entire generation’s worth of football fans would announce he’ll play elsewhere. However, only hours after Liverpool fans all over twitter were shouting of his demise, the ex-England captain has fans paraphrasing BBC’s Luther with his statement.
The name Steven Gerrard carries weight all over the world. Be it his heroics in Istanbul, or his slip against Chelsea, if you know the game you know the player. But, after twelve years of captaincy, and over twenty years of association with Liverpool Football Club, Gerrard has indeed stated his decision to leave.
The sad reality is that the number eight is not the player he once was. For years he’s carried poor sides through mediocrity, and good sides to higher paths, but as Liverpool fall back into yet another ‘transition period’, the truth is, Stevie can carry no more.
After enduring the nightmare end to the 2013/14 season that he did – the one title that he has dreamt of more than anything, metaphorically slipping right from under his feet – he then has to stand by and watch the loss of the club’s best asset (Luis Suarez), and accept that Brendan Rodgers can no longer afford him the luxury of being a nailed on starter. The heartbeat of Liverpool was beginning to fade with no sign of a pacemaker in sight.
In the recent interview with Claire Rourke on LFC TV, Gerrard says the final nail in the coffin of his choice was Rodgers telling him he would have to start tailoring his game time. From my perspective, it looks like the weight of being Steven Gerrard finally caught up with him. After the double disappointment of Chelsea and Crystal Palace back to back, it was a real testament of the character of Steven Gerrard to see him pick up the sobbing Luis Suarez off the floor and lead him down the tunnel.
However, I think it was this moment, with his and the fans’ dreams shattered, that the first ideas of moving on would have been creeping into his mind. With rival and even some of his own infamous #LFCFamily getting on his back (not cool, guys) every game, I’m not surprised he’s decided to live the American dream in front of a new set of adulating fans.
Being a man who still wants to be playing week in, week out, it would have been difficult to keep him at the club and keep him happy going forward. But would it have been achievable? I’m certain.
Perhaps the slow integration of coaching to his responsibilities would’ve been an appropriate move, having him working with the academy more, closely shadowing Rodgers through the day to day management, that even a mainstay like himself is not entirely familiar with.
Rather than playing him deep in midfield from the start of the game, release him into that ‘off the striker’ role, that he’s loved and thrived in during his career, for the last third of games. Sure he might lack the legs a little these days, but the talent is still there in abundance.
Even Liverpool fans would say – perhaps through gritted teeth – a model similar for Steven’s career to that of Ryan Giggs as his playing days drew to a close. Most importantly, keeping Gerrard in and around the club should have been a huge priority. Losing the experience, influence and attraction of a player and person like Steven Gerrard could affect anything from the club’s performance on the pitch to the club’s performance in the transfer window.
For Gerrard, now will come the desire for his final victories. He’ll want to finish the season as strongly as possible, and perhaps having that extra hunger for success will drive the club to a relatively successful season, with fourth place, the Europa League and both the FA and League cups to play for. If he can lead the club into the Champions League again for the coming season, and leave having lifted yet another trophy, I’m sure he’ll leave a proud and happy man.
Having turned down Chelsea, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid – three of the four when they were enjoying being champions of Europe – it’s fair to say he deserves to play out his twilight years in sunny America. That is aside from the fact that he’s scored in the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA cup and Champions League finals, the only player ever to do so. This is a hugely talented player – a genuine legend of the game – who has lived his dream of captaining his boyhood club, and carrying them to success, with the only real injustice being that he didn’t experience more of it.
With a bit of fortune and plenty of the desire which he’s shown time and time again, Gerrard could well lead Liverpool to more trophies in his final months with the club. And who knows, maybe (when he inevitably returns on loan next January) he’ll come back to Liverpool being in a better position.
Finally, from the standpoint of a fan who has idolised the player since he was just a teenager himself, I congratulate you personally, Steven Gerrard, on living your dream. I and all the other fans to whom you have brought such happy moments wish you further success both here and in America, and thankyou for your simply unmatchable service to Liverpool Football Club. You’ll Never Walk Alone.