If you weren’t aware, Steven Gerrard last week confirmed that he won’t be signing another contract with Liverpool Football Club. Come the end of the season, the Scouse talisman will follow the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry in moving to America to play in the MLS – specifically LA, playing under the captaincy of one Robbie Keane.
In a playing career spanning 16 years, ‘Stevie G’ has transformed from a skinny winger to a midfield powerhouse, in the process winning virtually every trophy and scoring in every major cup final. As local lad and captain, he’s synonymous with the football club – a rare one club man in a sport full of journeymen.
There is however one medal that still, and will now always, elude him. Despite finishing runner-up on three occasions, the Premier League has always somehow managed to slip from the midfielder’s clutches – if you’ll pardon the heavily overused pun. Given that Stevie is a self-confessed worrier, I imagine this will have weighed heavily over him.
In the time since Liverpool last won the league, almost 25 years, the club hasn’t exactly lived up to it’s glorious past. After winning a cup treble in his breakout 2000-’01 season and finishing league runner-up the season after, Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool team floundered around 4th or 5th in the league for the next six years, coming second in 2009 before spending another four years nearer mid table.
Whilst Frank Lampard, the yardstick typically used to measure Gerrard, played in Mourinho’s all-star Chelsea side, Gerrard was stuck carrying the likes of Igor Biscan, Salif Diao, Bruno Cheyrou, Antonio Nunez, Charlie Adam, Iago Aspas… Inspiring a Champions League final win from 3-0 down was a heroic achievement, doing so with Djimi Traore at left back made it nearly unbelievable – all whilst playing as an emergency right back, might I add.
My defining memory of Steven Gerrard however, is actually from an away game at Aston Villa. Not a cup final, not the heart-stopper against Olympiakos, not even when he called Van Persie a naughty word. No, what defines Steven Gerrard for me was that on a horrible, muddy afternoon at Villa Park where the team (a rather poor Gerard Houllier era team) had all but forgotten how to play, he kept running.
With the team dropping deeper and deeper into their own box, Steven Gerrard, with a stare that screamed a thousand expletives, just kept picking the ball up and tearing up the pitch as to say he’d win the game by himself if he had to. He did this because, as a fan, he more than anyone else in the team knew what was expected by the supporters.
The sheer weight of this responsibility, of always being the person expected to hold everything together, was evident towards the end of last season. After the win against Manchester City which put the team four games from the title, whilst still on the pitch, Stevie cried. He screamed and cried and yelled those infamous words (“This doesn’t slip now!”), as if he finally believed that after all the years of fighting for the team that his relief had finally arrived in the form of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Obviously it wasn’t to be.
What’s happened since is exactly what’s happened before. Suarez left, just like Torres, Alonso, and even Michael Owen before him. For sixteen years Steven Gerrard’s basically been a one man five-a-side team, hoping that his teammates will eventually show up. The truth being that even when they do they never stick around.
For the sake of his own wellbeing, I think we should let him give up.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.