Gerrard and Lampard: The last of a golden generation?
With the end of the premier league season, so came the end of Gerrard and Lampard’s respective careers in England. Both can be regarded as among the best English midfielders of their generation if not of all time. Whilst both are England greats their careers have hovered at different ends of the spectrum. Lampard joined Chelsea at the start of the Abramovich revolution, leading to the most successful period in Chelsea’s history. Gerrard on the other hand broke into Liverpool’s first team as the club embarked on its descent from superpower, to as Gary Neville termed it, “a provincial club”.
Firstly, I’m not going to enter in the old, “who’s better debate?” – both Lampard and Gerrard occupy the same position, but they are very different players. Lampard has become one of the highest scoring premier league players of all time, as well as the highest scoring midfielder. After coming through the ranks of the West Ham youth academy Lampard made a somewhat acrimonious transfer to Chelsea. From here he became a part of the new era of Chelsea football and one of the club’s greatest players.
Although not the most talented player ever, Lampard made an art of scoring from midfield. Arriving late in the box, Lampard was always certain to score. In fact maybe it was timing that characterized Lampard’s career. He moved from West Ham under a cloud of nepotism, he helped guide Chelsea at the beginning of the Abramovich era and although he didn’t finish his career at Chelsea, Lampard played a year at City to become one of the Premier League’s greats. Now he will play out his career in the States and maybe be a part of a burgeoning generation of American “soccer” players.
Gerrard on the other hand, represents a dying breed and rare breed of player- a one club man. Whilst Lampard joined the Chelsea revolution, Gerrard was the single light in a club struggling to match its performances to its long illustrious past. It no exaggeration to say that Gerrard single-handedly carried Liverpool to trophies in both the 2004 Champions League final and the 2006 FA Cup final, the “Gerrard final”. A Liverpool man through and through, only once was Gerrard’s head turned.
Unfortunately Gerrard’s near transfer to Chelsea in 2006 was the point in his career where he then resigned himself to playing for a struggling team. Instead of winning more titles, Gerrard would try and fail for the league. At one time one of the best players in the world, Gerard has had a turgid time for the last few years. Having missed out on the title, failing in the world cup and not been given a new contract at Liverpool, Gerrard’s end of his career has been a frustrating finish. However, it does represent the symbol that Gerrard is; he represents a city and more importantly an era now past. The once 90s/early 2000s golden generation is disappearing and is yet to be replaced.
The sad case is that we’re saying good bye to two greats. Moreover, it is a shame that both Lampard and Gerrard are leaving at the same time and that we are once again reminded that they failed to play with each other for England. Lampard and Gerrard have always been compared, but they have always been criticised by their failure to form a decent central midfield partnership. Why does this matter? It matters because if two great players are competing with each other, what does it spell for future players? We can look at the replacements; Henderson, Wilshere, Delph, Barkley and label them as the next great. What we must do is not see them as the next Gerrard or Lampard, but rather view them as established England players in their own right.
As two greats leave England for greener pastures, we remember their respective skill levels and we also remember their great characters, from Lampard’s tireless work ethic to Gerrard’s constant one-man heroics. We must think of Gerrard and Lampard as two great English players that we might not ever replicate. We need to leave the labels aside and let future England players create their own legacies. We need to forget loss of past greats and learn to build a team. The last of the “golden generation” of players are gone, we need to look to build a team capable of challenging the best. Every player need his own spot and legacy, we need to make sure they build there own, rather than living in the shadows of past legends. In sum, we should remember Lampard and Gerrard as a past era, but also use them as an impetuous to push for something more, something even they could unfortunately not do- win a World Cup.