by Ernie Fox
This will be the last article I write before one of the biggest moments for a generation of Liverpool fans. Even now as I start, I know only too well that the same task will be undertaken by a number of other word smiths all across the country, expressing their admiration for quite literally, a living legend.
Saturday will be the final home game for Steven Gerrard, possibly one of the greatest players I have ever had the good fortune to see play live – and one of the greatest in the club’s history. It will be a sobering moment to see such a sporting icon take to the Anfield turf one last time, knowing it will be the final occassion that he does so in a competitive capacity.
I don’t believe it’s possible to quite put into words the impact this one player has had on our great club, but the very least I can do is take this opportunity to send my own personal thanks to a man who has had such an influence over mine and the lives of many other like minded fans. Sure, it would have been nice to see him off with an FA Cup winners’ medal, but football doesn’t work like that, and the pragmatic Gerrard will be only too aware of this. He has never been one to get carried away with sentiment; take yesterday’s post match interview as an example, a couple of seconds of respect from the Chelsea fans wasn’t enough to distract from all the abuse he had received. The fact is he will leave with his held high at an incredible career with his boyhood club, something we will rarely see again.
Of course there are people who have said he underachieved, that he could’ve won so much more with another club; but sadly that is the mentality of many members of the press. There are a number of players with Premier League winners’ medals that will become completely lost in the mists of time, Steven Gerrard stayed loyal to Liverpool and displayed his ambition by driving the team onwards at times when it just didn’t seem possible. He won matches almost single handedly, led Liverpool to glory on countless occassions and maintained the club amongst European football’s elite. If anything Gerrard achieved more than almost any other player by transcending the success achieved by those who were simply part of a winning team.
Gerrard has been a leader on and off the field, an inspiration playing in the centre of the park. Sami Hyypia graciously handed over the captain’s armband in 2003 and from there the midfielder has never looked back. He has played in so many positions throughout his career and each time demonstrated that no matter where you play on the pitch you can influence the game with the right mentality. Who can forget the Champions League final in Istanbul when not only did he drive the side forward to produce the greatest come back in the competition, but even moved to right back for the latter stages of the match when legs were tired and we needed that extra grit at the back to get us over the line.
Gerrard has scored some of the greatest goals ever to come from a player in the famous red jersey, and for anyone else that would be enough, but for this man that barely touches the surface of what he has achieved. He has been an iconic figure on and off the field for so many years it will be hard to imagine anything related to the club that does not contain his name beside it.
As a man there is no replacing him, he represents everything about the football club that makes it such a magnificent family to be a part of. He has earn’t his place beside the likes of Roger Hunt, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish; his name will be revered in years to come by the younger generations wishing to know more about the history of their club.
But as the player leaves for pastures new, we must learn to move on. We must appreciate what he has given us but also look to the next generation to fill the gap; there will be new players looking to bring success back to Liverpool, and rather than judging them against such a high standard we need to look to the skills they can bring to the team. They may not have the all round abilities of Gerrard, but rather than finding an exact replacement, we need to look to integrate those into the system in the way that gets the best out of them. In short there will never be another Gerrard, but there will be many more who wear the number 8 jersey; and who knows, just as Luis Suarez was able to step up to the challenge of wearing the famed number 7, so somebody will do likewise with the number synonymous with our great captain.
For now we shall have to accept that there is a hole in the first eleven that will need far more than a few million pounds to fill. The standards set by such a powerful leader in midfield have been so great, that in the end, not even Steven Gerrard could quite fill the gap this season left by the Captain of over a decade, and hence it is the right time to say goodbye. His legacy will live on and enable Anfield one final chance to wish him a fond farewell and a thank you for all he has given to the millions of supporters over the years.
The name Steven Gerrard will mean different things to millions of fans around the world, but to me it defines a generation. A period of time when the club refused to give in, when loyalty and passion made anything possible and when success came from a belief and willingness to make it happen.
Written by Ernie Fox