There seems to be little surprise that Steven Gerrard has signed a long term extension to his current contract at Liverpool, effectively sealing his fate to end his career at the same club he joined in 1989, aged just nine. But shouldn’t there be surprise? Should there not be celebrations of his loyalty? Where are the deserved excitations and vapid overuse of phrases such as ‘dying breed’, ‘credit to the club’, ‘servant’? Where is Jamie Redknapp, to proclaim the literalness of Gerrard’s fidelity? The media gave the event little play, perhaps taking its cue from Gerrard’s club, who presented the occasion to the public with the fervor of a grown man celebrating the birthday of the family dog. Hats are on, cake’s out, but underneath the pantomime smile there lies a stinging sense of embarrassment and disgust at the occasion. Why can’t I simply be elated at the occasion and eat my cake?
Perhaps the lack of excitement stems from a repressed tension between the values of global football, which we all promote at one point or another, and the realities which they sometimes produce. Gerrard will be quietly heralded as a testament to bygone times while simultaneously cultivating the sympathies of many within the footballing community who acknowledge that Gerrard deserved better from Liverpool after the Champion’s League success in 2005. I feel for those oh-too-aware souls in Merseyside who secretly acknowledge, in those sweet moments before sleep takes them into dreams of Istanbul, that perhaps Gerrard should have made his way to Chelsea in 2005. A football of his character deserves every chance to win silverware, and even the most dedicated Kopites recognize that Liverpool have simply failed Stevie G in this regard. Even in the 2009-10 season, when Liverpool was closest to winning its first English league title in 20 years, there were utterances of disbelief in Gerrard’s commitment to the club. After a league win over Chelsea in January 2010, I walked out of the Anfield Road End asking a friend what would happen to Stevie if ‘Liverpool actually won this thing?’ Without hesitation, he stingingly responded: ‘Madrid.’
Of course, Stevie never made it to Madrid, even though Xabi did, and Liverpool couldn’t out-scrap United for the league. At the time I never felt that that Stevie’s allegiance to the city and club he loves so dearly has hampered his ability to truly make his mark on the global game, but I’m not so sure anymore. As long ‘global football’ (whatever that is) continues to promote this sort of devotion, eternal guilt remains a relevant risk to supporters and club alike who repay loyalty with further loyalty
I, for one, am glad to see the Giggs, Maldinis, and Gerrards of the world repaid by their clubs, particularly in the current climate of short-termism, but it is painfully obvious to me now, for the first time, that what was perhaps best for Liverpool Football Club was not in the best interest of Steven Gerrard, the footballer. The paradox is that only today, as news of the bond between player and club enters its final phase, can I even separate the two.
Matt Story is the Managing Editor of Purlieu, a graduate student in Philosophy and a life-long Red. He spends much of his waking hours supporting Liverpool Football Club and is very concerned as to why they do not win everything every year; he blames Graeme Souness, the offside rule, and fate.