We’ve talked a lot about Steven Gerrard this week. In just eight days time his Liverpool career will be confined to the history books and our long-serving captain will set off for his LA swansong.
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There won’t be a dry eye in the house this afternoon, as our famous No. 8 bids farewell to Anfield for the final time as a Liverpool player. He’s promised us that he’ll be back, but that’s not going to make the occasion any easier.
The latest generation of Liverpool fans will struggle to recall a Liverpool squad without Steven Gerrard. Last night, we took a look at the team that Gerard Houllier put out on November 29 1999, the day that Gerrard made his Liverpool debut as a late substitute. It’s extraordinary to think how much times have changed.
During his 17-year career as a first-team player at Liverpool, Gerrard has played with some truly magnificent players and starred alongside 23 different central midfield partners. He has been the one constant in an era full of change.
On multiple occasions, potential suitors have attempted to lure Gerrard away to play elsewhere. Andrea Pirlo recently revealed that AC Milan wanted Gerrard to be his midfield partner, while Jose Mourinho has also admitted that he tried to sign our iconic midfielder.
Through it all, he’s stayed loyal to us, his boyhood club. Loyalty is a quality so often overlooked, particularly in modern football, where it is so rarely seen. Gerrard deserves all the credit in the world for standing by us, through the good times and the bad.
In all fairness, there have been plenty of the former. Gerrard won his first Liverpool trophy in February 2001, with the Reds beating Birmingham City on penalties to lift the League Cup. He was withdrawn after 78 minutes with the score at 1-0. City equalised through a late penalty but Robbie Fowler and co eventually came through. Jamie Carragher scored the winning spot kick.
Within four months, we had completed the treble. He played the full 90 minutes as we came from behind to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup, before scoring the second of five Liverpool goals on route to our UEFA Cup triumph.
He scored in his first domestic final in 2003, as the Reds won the League Cup again. He was made captain soon after and it was at this point that he began to come into his own, proving time and again that he would go down as an all-time great.
Very few Liverpool fans will need me to remind you of Istanbul in 2005, or Cardiff in 2006, where Gerrard near single-handedly inspired our Champions League and FA Cup victories. We were 3-0 down against Milan before our skipper clicked through the gears, scoring the first and winning the penalty for the equaliser. He then netted twice against West Ham, including an iconic screamer to take the match into extra time.
Progress has slowed since ‘The Gerrard Final’, with just one further League Cup winners medal to his name. However, there has still been countless moments of magic for us greedy fans to savour – the kissing of the camera against Manchester United, the hat-tricks against Everton and Napoli, the partnerships with Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, and the two second place finishes in the Premier League. If anyone has deserved a top flight winners medal more than Gerrard, we’re not aware of them.
You can add to that list a grand total of 114 England caps, placing him third on the overall appearance standings, as well as whole host of individual honours – Ballon d’Or finalist, PFA Player of the Year, England Player of the Year, and many more.
Few players have ticked more boxes in their careers than Gerrard, who through it all has remained a humble, down-to-earth family man; the model professional from back to front.
In recent years, as his ageing legs have started to get the best of him, the murmurings of discontent have begun to grow. These so-called supporters need to remember what this man has achieved – more than 700 games and close to 200 goals as a midfielder! That sort of tally is unlikely to ever be matched again.
Steven Gerrard will always have a home at Anfield. Legends are made by history. As the time passes and people start to forget the details, only these most memorable moments will remain. Young Liverpool supporters of the future will watch highlight reels of his performances and act out his heroics with their friends.
His name will join those of Dalglish, Rush, Keegan, Souness and more. Nothing can ever take that away from him. When Gerrard walks off the Anfield pitch for the final time today, try and remember everything that this one man has given us. We should be truly humbled.
So let’s get ready for today’s game in the right mindset and make sure that we give our greatest ever player a send-off so loud, that it makes the very foundations of Anfield shake with admiration.
Thank you Stevie, you are truly one of a kind.