Gerrard admits he got very emotional when telling his kids he was leaving Liverpool…
Today Steven Gerrard spoke on length about his decision to quit Liverpool at the end of the season, courtesy of the official club website.
A day on from the announcement confirming that you will leave Liverpool Football Club in the summer, how do you feel?
A bit strange. I’m not going to lie, it’s been an emotional 24 hours for myself and my family, but there are still six months to go and I’ve still got plenty to try to achieve, so I am trying to keep my focus on that. There’ll be plenty of time for tears and sentiment come the end of the season. It’s been a tough 24 hours and I’ve had to do some tough things that I’d never really thought of doing for a long, long time. Now that it’s real, it’s a bit of a strange feeling.
What goes through your mind when making a huge decision like that?
I think first and foremost, I always have to put my family first – and then I also think about myself and the club as one, really. I had to make a tough decision about what’s best for all concerned. The reality is I am going to be 35 in the summer. I’ve been here for a long time, I’ve been coming to this training ground since I was eight years of age. I always knew it was going to end one day and that it was going to be an emotional decision. That decision is here. People will have their own opinions on it, but for me I think come the summer it will be the right time to move on and try something different – come out of the club and the city and have a look in for a short while, and hopefully have the opportunity to return.
Was there a particular moment that made your mind up, that you thought ‘this is what I am going to do’?
Yes. There was more than one moment that has made me come to this decision, but I think the key conversation or moment was with the manager when he sat me down not so long ago and said it was time to manage my games for me and for the team. I’m bright enough to realise it is the right thing for everyone, but when you’ve been a starter and a mainstay in the team for such a long time, it was a very difficult conversation to have with the manager. I accept it and I’ll continue to give everything I’ve got, whether I’m starting, coming off the bench or whatever, but that was the key conversation that swung me to deciding to come away for a short while.
Was it a harsh realisation, or did you know that was coming?
I had an idea it was going to come at some time – I’m a human, not a robot. I’m not 24. I wish I was 24, I wish I’d met Brendan when I was 24 because I think I’d be sitting here talking about a lot of titles that we’d won together. The reality is, Brendan came into this club when I was 32 years of age and it’s a shame that relationship didn’t start 10 years ago. I had an idea the conversation was going to come at some time, but it was a painful conversation to have and that was the key moment – along with other things over the last six to 12 months, but that was the conversation. That was the key one.
As you said, you’ve got to consider your family as the No.1 priority, so what was that conversation like with your wife and your young family?
It was tough to tell the girls, even though they’re not big football fans. They’re more into the girly things in life, but to tell them their dad wasn’t going to play for Liverpool anymore still hit them pretty hard. That’s when the emotion started in the house, that’s when it became tough. At the same time, it’s exciting – it’s a great opportunity for my family and myself. But yes, it’s tough.
But what an incredible adventure you can take your family on…
Yes, of course. The key for me now is to finish the season strongly from a personal point of view and try to achieve something for the team. And try to cheer the fans up – they have had a difficult six months, like the rest of us. I’m focused now and I told the manager a couple of days ago when we had a chat that he’s got no worries about me downing tools. I’ll be here until the end and keep fighting until the final ball I kick. I’d love nothing better than to try to win a trophy and leave the team in the top four. Looking beyond six months, of course it’s going to be an incredible opportunity for me to try something different, because I’ve lived in Liverpool all of my life and I’ve never been out. It will be a change but certainly one I’m looking forward to.
You had to tell your teammates as well, a group of men who look up to you so much. What was their reaction?
I think they were a bit shocked yesterday. It was as if the whole club had had some bad news. But I don’t want it to be like that. I wanted to do the announcement after the Leicester game because I didn’t want it to affect that game. But life goes on, it’s normal and we carry on working hard for each other. They know what I think of them but it was also nice for me to see what they think of me as well. That was touching. But we’re all men and we’ve got work to do. The challenge for us now is to keep trying to move forward and I’m sure we will.
I assumed that you’d be quite closed off from the emotion of it, because you’ve accepted the decision however long ago. But it seems quite raw for you still…
It’s raw and it will be from now until the end of the season. The messages of support I’ve had from the fans, players, staff, media and people who I’ve worked with for a long time has blown me away. That’s when I’ve started getting emotional. But I need to be strong and hold them back because I’m not going yet and I still see this six months as a very important period for myself and the team. So I need to be strong, keep playing and after the next couple of days I need to just focus on performances.
Have you read much of the reaction?
I can’t at the moment. I keep switching the TV over. I’m replying to messages and stuff, but it’s tough. I didn’t realise it would be as big as this. But I’ve got to move on. The important people here are the supporters, they are the key to any football club. I’m lucky enough to play in front of the best ones in the world. Some of the things that I’ve seen already and will probably see in the future, it’s tough to move on.
When you are talked about as a Liverpool legend – something you’ve been described as for a long time – how does that sit with you?
It’s very flattering and I’m very humbled by it. To be named in some of the company that I do get named in is brilliant for me and my family because we’re all big Reds, we have supported the club for a long time and will continue to do so forever. To be named in the same company as some of the legends and people I look up to is brilliant, especially for my dad and brother.
You’re allowed to be emotional about it. This club has been such a massive part of your life, but you’ve been such a massive part of all of our lives and all the supporters’ lives…
It’s been a fantastic relationship – so strong. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to have that.
Steven Gerrard and Liverpool go hand-in-hand. You’ve said before that you want to come back and serve this football club one day. Was that always your long-term plan regardless of this next move?
I think that’s more in hope. I’ll only come back and serve the club if I feel as if I can help. I’ll always be a fan, of course, no matter what happens in the future. But I think that’s something I’ll have to consider. I think when you’ve been part of a club like this for so long and you’ve contributed in the way I’ve tried to, I’d always want that to stay the same in the future. I wouldn’t like to come back just to be Steven Gerrard the player and just be around. I’d like to help in whatever capacity that may be. If I sit down with the people who are running the club at that time and they see a role for me where I can help the team or help young kids to become players, of course I will consider it because, as you say, it’s been such a big part of my life.
I know you’ve said you don’t want to speak too much about where you are going to go. But fans will want to know and everyone will want to know. Have you made your decision?
I appreciate that and that’s why I made the announcement now. I didn’t want it to drag through January and there to be stories in the papers about ‘is he staying, is he coming, is he going there’, Brendan facing questions from the media and the players [facing questions]. I don’t think that’s fair and I’ve always tried to be respectful to other people. I told the manager as early as I could that it was time to move on. I wanted the announcement out there after the Leicester game because we had a bigger space between Leicester and the Wimbledon game to try to get it out of the way, put it to bed and focus on the other games. I can tell the supporters at the moment that it will be America. I’ll be going to play in America. But I’m not over the line with any team just yet. I’m close and as soon as I know, I’ll make the announcement, I’ll do the bits and bobs that I need to do. Then we try to go and win a trophy and forget about Steven Gerrard for a bit.
I don’t think people will be forgetting about you any time soon, Steven. There’s an important few months left – plenty to play for. What is the dream scenario?
I think, where I’m sitting at the moment, realistically, we’ve still got a chance of finishing in the top four and that’s the most important thing for the club, for obvious reasons. That would be a great achievement after the start we’ve made in the league. But from a selfish point of view, it’s always a trophy and it’s always medals, for me. That’s what people remember and that’s what the club is all about. It’s about success and history. The day you make your debut for this club, the pressure and the responsibility is on your shoulders to keep delivering trophies to add to that wonderful history. I’ve lived with that for so long and I’ll live with it for another six months and try my best to add one or two more.
When you finally pack up your locker here at Melwood and you drive out of those gates for the last time, how do you think you’ll feel? Is it possible to anticipate that?
Not at the moment. But I’m sure it will be tough. The last couple of weeks will be probably how the last 24 hours have been – very tough. But I’m really proud of what I’ve done and hopefully I can write a few more chapters with the team from now to the end. But the last game and the last couple of training sessions are going to be torture, because it’s so tough to say ‘goodbye’. But hopefully it’s more of a ‘see you soon’ rather than a ‘goodbye’.
There is a feeling of tremendous sadness among the supporters. What’s your message to them?
It’s difficult to give a message – but, I’m feeling the same. There’s still a bit to go and I’d love nothing better than to walk around Wembley or a big stadium at the end of the season with a trophy for them.