As the clock struck 90” at Craven Cottage, he picked up the ball, placed it on the penalty spot, waited for the referee’s whistle and slotted it home with impeccable composure. Off came the shirt, sheer delight on his face. Little does he know the scale of jollity he brought to all Liverpool supporters around the world. I usually don’t believe in all this talk of football heroes but if there’s a person I consider as one, it would have to be Steven Gerrard.
The 2005 Champions League Final where he single handedly brought Liverpool back from annihilation and the 2006 FA Cup Final where he equalized against West Ham with the most outrageous of strikes, serve as markers of his greatness. But what people often overlook is a player who has put his body on the line to make his beloved club succeed. He’s the epitome of a hero, if anything else. A player who has stayed loyal to his childhood club over the years, one who has wore the captain’s armband with a sense of unbridled pride. If there’s anyone I look to for inspiration during a Liverpool game it is no one else but him.
Gerrard stands like a Colossus in midfield, spraying passes around to team-mates, encouraging them to be offensive. His attacking greatness aside, what recent games have shown is his ability to adapt to any position on the pitch. Look at the Arsenal and Everton games to draw conclusions. Zidane termed him the best midfield player during his time. Comparing one player to another is a futile endeavour for there is a multitude of parameters to consider. Statistics might imply one player to be head and shoulders above the other, but does a hat-trick against a Championship team mean the same thing as a goal in a Champions League Final? I highly doubt so. This is the reason why Zidane, undoubtedly one of the best players to ever have played the game, rated Gerrard so highly.
This brings me back to the Fulham game. If you haven’t seen the through ball to Sturridge for the first goal, go look at it now. Liverpool were being hit on the counter-attack by the opponent, not much was going their way up until that moment where Gerrard first stumbled, looked up, and lobbed an extraordinary ball to Sturridge who finished with equal aplomb. They might say that salivating over one pass in a game is doltish. Well to be honest, I’ve had the pleasure of watching him do that over the years and not once have I felt that showering extravagant praise on him does him any justice. He deserves much more.
Gerrard was the first person to run towards Sturridge to hug him when he scored. That including his celebration after the penalty all show the love he has for Liverpool football club. It’s the desire to help his team succeed and to make the fans happy, that makes him an idol in the eyes of a supporter. Not one fan would ever judge his dedication or commitment to the common cause no matter what he does on the field. The manner in which both he and Suarez pulled back Coutinho and co. after the second goal typifies the leadership qualities they both possess. They are players who are never satisfied with a draw, both of them want to win and bring back glory to Liverpool which has been long due.
Gerrard will continue to be belittled for the lack of a Premier League medal amongst his laurels. He has seen his fellow England team-mates at Manchester United win titles after titles and yet here he stands, after 16 years, yet to win it once. One blot on a magnificent career doesn’t render it nugatory. If Gerrard retires without winning the title once it would only be because of his team-mates not being equally adroit or not possessing the same desire and enthusiasm as him. You look at his passionate celebration at the final whistle and tell me he doesn’t want a proper go at the title. I dare you, I double dare you. (Yeah, the Samuel L. Jackson line seemed rather appropriate). Brendan Rodgers has tried to instill a similar hunger within every other Liverpool player and the results are there for everyone to see. We might not yet win the title this season, yet we can rest assure that the players are going to give a hundred percent to try to achieve the paramount prize.
Blood, sweat and tears is what exemplifies a great individual and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you will continue to see, for a few more years from Gerrard. Enjoy him while he plays, for there might never be a player of such greatness in the near future.