There is a moment in your life when realization finally dawns on you that you have grown up. Well, that realization has hit me, but why now is the question. To be frank, I am one of the most ardent fan of Liverpool FC, especially Steven Gerrard. Unlike other global football fans, who adorn their room with posters, all I have is Liverpool memorabilia. Not a single Gerrard poster, a naysayer will say, what a hypocrite I am.
But alas, the day has come, Steven Gerrard is finally saying goodbye to the famous Red jersey. For a true football fan, it would bring a lump to one’s throat. In the cutthroat world of football today, where young footballers treat the game merely as a job, moving from one corporate house to another….err I meant to say one club to another, it has been delightful to observe Gerrard.
Talented professionals sell their talent at a premium to the biggest payers. You can read the account of this in one of the newly released books I AM ZLATAN IBRAHAMOVIC by David Lagercrantz and Ruth Urbom.
Here is a true account of one’s feelings, goals, ambitions etc. A true self-absorbed individual who used his talent and sold his talent to the highest bidders. I don’t belittle him, instead its really riveting to read his perspective.
Players like Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, John Terry and Italian Legends such as Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti, they come from a different era, with different set of values. For them it’s always been about one club. Similarly,Steven Gerrard has always been a one-club person.
At his prime he was a part of the FIFA World Eleven. His peers and colleagues were in awe of his energy and style. Where not has he played to benefit the club. From Right Back to Center Forward, every outfield position has been explored. One might say he was a jack of all trades when it comes to the football pitch.
Coaches ranging from Houllier, Benitez to current incumbent Rodgers, everyone has found ways to get the best out of him, or maybe it was the other way round. He was too good to be on the bench. Managers itched to use his talents, even in the past two seasons the performance levels have been fantastic. Adapting to different roles has always been his forte and his transformation to a defensive midfielder was as usual seamless.
Acceptance of different roles to benefit the team is what makes him a manager’s darling. Their words have always been it’s best for the team, did they aver ask Stevie G where he wanted to play?
In an era where players are so self-centred that they would demand their position rather than acclimatize, it was rare for him to make space so that others could excel. My mother may not know much about football, but the moment I sit down to watch a Liverpool game, the first question on her lips is “Where’s Gerrard ?”. For years I have been able to say confidently, he is still with the club, now at the end of this season, the combination of number 8 and Gerrard won’t be seen in a Red shirt.
Steven Gerrard when he burst onto the scene was more of a defensive midfielder. The trust which was placed on him by the club hierarchy has been paid in full. In the year 1998, when he was making his debut his teammate, Michael Owen was already making waves. As the seasons progressed, the duo were one of the highlights, with some of the goals being created and scored on pure telepathic connection.
Be it in the first minute, or last minute, he was a rock and a source of inspiration to all. In the big games, he used to shoulder so much responsibility, that it is ethereal at times. No disrespect to his teammates, afterall football is not a one man’s game.
One of the primary reasons Stevie G was promoted to captaincy was to make him more responsible. Lee Bowyer of Leeds United was one more star and both their temperaments are of similar nature, all aggression and passion, but Bowyer’s career drifted off. Maybe the management realizing that, felt that it was better to entrust him with more leadership. Leadership for Gerrard didn’t act as a burden instead it was a catalyst for him to do even better.
Indeed his breakthrough season can be described as the 2004-05 season, which coincidentally was Rafa Benitez’s first season in charge. Liverpool suffered considerably in the Premier League, but Gerrard’s return from his early season injuries, galvanized the team and from scoring in the last few minutes to qualify for the group stage to inspiring the team in the final, it was stuff what legends are made of. It established him truly as one of the World Class players and in the subsequent season he followed it up with 23 goals.
In hindsight it would be wrong to call that season the breakthrough season, rather before that season he was on the fringes of World Class, that season truly established him.
The plaudits are still flowing in for what has been a wonderful career. His vision his box-to box runs, his thunderbolts. There is always magic in the air every time he pulls on the jersey. The Kop’s favourite son, the talisman of the club, Captain Fantastico.
A dictionary of expletives to capture his exploits would still not be enough.
As a fan, i have been privileged enough to see the rise and rise of Steven Gerrard and I thank him, for he willed me into supporting Liverpool. There’s never been a moment of disappointment with him, his efforts spoke volumes for what he could do for the club. He has given his all and he deserves to walk away on his terms.
As the clubs legendary motto goes ,“You will never walk alone”, thank you once again for the memories.