Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the Steven Gerrard situation, I’d like to throw in my two penneth. The man with the consistent haircut and traction engine of a right foot is arguably the best “match winning” player to every grace the Premier League.
The news of his impending departure had me searching for a profound analogy:
It’s like that annoying old neighbour died. He made your life hell for years and you really should hate him, but now that he’s gone, you can’t help but miss the old bollox.
That’s as good as it gets I’m afraid.
With Gerrard, comparisons with Keane, Scholes, Lampard, Vieira et al are common, if a little cliché and dare I say it, a little lazy. Keane could do things Gerrard couldn’t – the reverse is also true and you can substitute any of the other names in to the same effect.
Those arguments and juxtaposition of attributes all grate on me a little to be honest. Can’t we just appreciate them all and agree that they were all fabulous players?
But this article is about Gerrard and simply put, I reckon he would get into any Premier League team there has ever been, though maybe not in centre midfield….oh yes I went there.
Stevie G’s decision to leave Liverpool at the end of the season left me a little baffled. It strikes me as a decision made by someone whose pride has been wounded rather than a choice and conclusion deeply considered.
For so long, Gerrard has been the talismanic banner man, carrying the entire hopes of a club on his broad shoulders. Sometimes that expectation to deliver seemed to get the better of him and he tried in desperation to win games on his own, shooting from everywhere and anywhere instead of picking a more intelligent option.
Games like that earned him the alternative nickname of “Stevie Me” in some quarters for what some saw as a selfish streak – a need, if you like, to be the headline dominating Roy of the Rovers figure.
In reality, it was probably just a genuine desperation to win and maybe a distrust of teammates who were often glaringly below Gerrard’s level of ability. Also it must be said, that Gerrard delivered the goods more often than not. And while he was never one to regularly dictate the tempo of game from start to finish, he produced more of the moments that won games than anyone else. Big goals in big games at important times will always be his trademark and legacy.
But now, for the first time since Gerrard broke into the Liverpool first team, he is no longer considered the first name on the team sheet. It must have been the toughest of things to hear for the Liverpool skipper when he had his sit down with Rodgers. How do you tell a hero that he is past it? How do you break it to a master craftsman that he is being made redundant?
People always maintained that once Gerrard’s physical attributes began to wane, the performance levels would rapidly decline. It was an opinion knocked by Liverpool fans, but it turns out it was correct. But that still doesn’t make him a bad player. Being overplayed and badly used from a positional sense hasn’t helped, but Gerrard remains one of Liverpool’s best players.
Make no mistake, I’m sure that Rodgers wanted and still wants Gerrard to stay but instead of re-evaluating his standing and accepting a lesser role in the squad, Gerrard has called time on his Liverpool career. It seems like it’s a case of all or nothing for Gerrard; be the main man or an excommunicated cipher.
But doesn’t it all feel a little rushed and maybe even a little premature? Football is a funny game and while Gerrard’s star looks to be dwindling right now, the sport is filled with players who have experienced Indian summers and renaissances in their own late careers, especially midfielders it must be said.
That word “pride” again keeps its relevance here. Has the sting of a pseudo-rejection from those he loves the most made it too difficult for Gerrard to consider any sort of self re-invention.
Straight away you can draw comparisons with Ryan Giggs, who had been written off as too old from the age of 32 onwards, but contributed so much to his beloved United for another 8 years. Who’s to say Gerrard couldn’t have a similar impact? Sure, he would start less games, but he would still be an important player to a club that needs him.
Liverpool are in a bad place right now. Through a combination of different things, moving on from last season’s late disappointments has proved extremely difficult. And right or wrong, Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea is considered the defining moment of another failed Liverpool title tilt. The timing of Gerrard’s decision has piled on the misery for Liverpool fans who are ready to wipe their hands of 2014/15 already.
Is Gerrard is running away from what has been a nightmare 9 months or so? He has had to listen to people blaming him for scuppering Liverpool’s title chances and now he has people telling him his is no longer good enough to keep his place in the team.
Whatever his reasons for leaving, it will be an inauspicious end to glorious career. Gerrard will hope that escaping to LA will help to heal his pride, but it might just as quickly replace it with regret.
by Simon Winter