By Jim Fowler (@jimfrompreston)
I type this with leaden fingers and a crestfallen heart. Newsbreakers and conferences have been carried out informing the world of the news. Steven Gerrard is leaving Liverpool Football Club. Steven. Gerrard. Two proper nouns. Individually they amount to nothing much. Bring them together and they become the embodiment, some would say the soul, of modern day Liverpool. His is the name that is synonymous with the club. The reason other players join the club. The player all those who join look towards as an example and inspiration. The player all the local young boys and girls with a love of the sport want to become. He is our leader, our Captain Fantastic. Without him, where is our local identity within the club? Where can we find such a dynamic, loyal, charismatic and enduring talent?
I hold my hand up and will say that I have been one of those supporters grumbling about his inclusion in starting line ups recently. The lack of pace that he brings, not just with his legs but due to others always looking to pass him the ball even though it leads to the ball going backwards or horizontal, has been at a detriment to our playing style this season. This does not mean I want him to leave. He is a fantastic ambassador for our club. He is one of ‘us’. As noted, other players sign to play with Steven Gerrard. His is the story that all young lads in the youth ranks should aspire to emulate. With Gerrard going, where is the local lad with the ‘Roy of the Rovers’ career, whom these young players can look towards for inspiration? His role was wider reaching than on the pitch. Could Gerrard have been given a player/coach role by our hierarchy? Would this have sated his clear appetite for playing time? His tutelage to the younger players would have been invaluable as they seek to develop and hone their skills. Is this Gerrard once again putting the clubs best interests at heart? Does he feel that his presence on the pitch is dwindling? Therefore is he leaving so it allows the club ample time to try and find a new heir to the throne? A task, I may add, that is nigh on impossible to accomplish.
His loyalty has been unwavering over the many years of mediocrity that he has had to endure. It is this that sets Gerrard above all other modern era football players. United fans will comment that none of their own left. Chelsea fans and Arsenal fans will say the same or that their players were sold. People will mock Liverpool saying that with Gerrard leaving it is further proof that a club of our stature isn’t capable of keeping hold of its stars. My counter argument is this… Would the likes of Scholes, Giggs, Lampard et al have stayed at a club when the squads around them were not world class? Would they have stayed during a five year absence of European football? Would they have stayed when clubs as glamorous, powerful and elite as Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and A.C Milan placed bids? It is his deep, profound love of Liverpool Football Club and his reluctance to leave us, that highlights how lucky we have been to witness him play for so long in the famous red jersey.
Trying to compare Gerrard with other icons from our illustrious club is a heedless task. Different eras, different teams and vastly different standard in terms of the personnel involved.
Some fans (and pundits) will note that Steven Gerrard was a talented and great player but he can’t be THAT good as he never won a Premier League title. Again, this is a meaningless argument. You could argue that Gerrard, with his quality, lifted Liverpool to the levels that allowed them to taste the success we have had. There is a reason that the ’05 Champions League final and the ’06 FA Cup final are called the ‘Gerrard Finals’. He dared to dream. He dared to win. His never say die attitude evoked a reaction from the players around him and catapulted Liverpool into European and domestic folklore.
695. 180. 27. 10. Just numbers. On their own they are meaningless. Apply them to the name Steven Gerrard and it shows just how good he has been.
695 appearances. 3rd in the all time appearances list for Liverpool Football club.
180 goals in all competitions. My personal stand outs: His hat-trick against Everton, Olympiakos (home), West Ham (F.A Cup Final), A.C Milan (Champions League final), Marseille (away), Manchester United (any) and T.N.S (Champions League Qualifiers in 05/06 as it meant he was staying after nearly joining Chelsea). There have been countless goals scored that have been of utmost importance or when the team have needed that spark of inspiration/excellence. Last minute of an FA Cup final? No problem. Losing by a 3-0 margin and need a goal to initiate the greatest comeback in European football? Sorted. Want a hat-trick in the Merseyside Derby? Easy. Gerrard has been the ‘go to’ man. The person who can deliver the goods when it is needed most regardless of pressure.
27 years with the club. Longer than my lifespan on this planet. This is where the feeling of loss is emanating from. This is the loss of my childhood hero. The player who I could depend on to give 100% and expect 100% from those around him. The person who knew the pride it meant to have the Liverbird stand proud on their chest.
10. The only number Gerrard will have regrets and ‘what ifs’ about. The number that I am truly thankful for as a supporter of Liverpool. The number of major honours Gerrard has accumulated over the course of his illustrious career. How I wish he could have enjoyed more success with us. How I wish he had the Premier League title many deem necessary to be truly ‘World Class’. How I wish he was only 24 and had another 10 years left in his legs so he could improve upon that number. How I wish I could meet him in person and show the gratitude for allowing me to celebrate our cup successes…
And so I get to the end of this piece. A piece that feels like it’s being written too soon. A piece which has a lot of gratitude, sentiment and emotional attachment to it. Steven. Gerrard. A name that will not be forgot. A name that exudes belief and inspiration from within the walls at Melwood and around the terraces at Anfield. A name that rival supporters feared, booed, chanted incessantly about but nevertheless, respected. A name that has been written into Liverpool Football Club history. A name that will never walk alone. Steven Gerrard, thank you for everything.