By David de Winter – Sports Editor
@davidjdewinter [email protected]_Sport
It saddens me greatly to hear that you are leaving Liverpool Football Club at the end of the season. After a beautiful 25 year relationship, you have decided to start a new life over in the United States. Now I know all good things have to come to an end, but why so soon Steven? You still have so much to offer Liverpool – we still want you, we still need you. When you are gone, who will deliver those wonderful cross-field passes? Who will dig us out of a whole when we are struggling against a limited League Two outfit in the FA Cup on a cold Monday night? Jordan Henderson? I don’t think so. Joe Allen? Not likely. Emre Can? Don’t be silly.
The fact is that you are still one of the best players at Liverpool and it is an awful to think that were you to stay, you would have plenty of influence, not only on the pitch but also off it as our inspirational leader and captain. Look at John Terry – he’s still going strong and he’s much less talented than you. Ryan Giggs played into his forties and he was arguably one of Manchester United’s most important players, even in his late 30s. There are other such examples: Javier Zanetti at Inter Milan, Paul Scholes at Manchester United, Clarence Seedorf at AC Milan, all of whom flourished in the twilight of their careers because they were well looked after and managed wisely off the pitch. Even Frank Lampard is enjoying an Indian summer at Manchester City, and he is slower than tortoise in treacle. It can be done Steven – I believe there are still three years left in you at the top level.
I know Brendan Rodgers stated that your game time would become limited as the years wore on, but we all know that you would still play the important games. Dropping you against Real Madrid at the Bernebeu clearly irked you Steven, but you still have played more minutes this season for Liverpool than everyone bar Raheem Sterling. That’s not bad going for a man of 34.
Your influence on the training ground, especially for the younger players will be sorely missed. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Jon Flanagan have all benefited enormously from your footballing expertise. Most of all though it is the youth team players, the 8-16 year-olds, who will be most affected. Thousands of youngsters have idolised you, some of them since birth, dreaming that one day they too will be able to follow in the great Steven Gerrard’s footsteps and walk onto Anfield’s hallowed turf wearing the red of Liverpool. Your ability to inspire a generation of aspiring British footballers should not be underestimated.
So how will you be remembered Steven? Personally, I will remember you as an enormously talented footballer who was always 100% committed to the cause. There have been many gifted footballers, some more gifted than you Steven, but none who could combine such talent with such unwavering effort. Be it the first minute or the last, you would be there to throw yourself into a tackle, to make that lung-busting run into the area or to deliver that killer pass. Time and again you would save Liverpool’s bacon with a crucial goal. I dread to think where we would be, and where we would have been, without you.
My abiding memory of you is that glorious night in Istanbul in May 2005. 3-0 down at half-time to a vastly superior AC Milan side, we were down and out, staring humiliation in the face. But you came out in the second half and took the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring our first goal and then winning the penalty to make it 3-3. Not content with that contribution, you then single-handedly marked Milan substitute winger Serginho out of the game in extra-time, constantly running up and down the touchline to close down the Brazilian. Just to put this in context, this was against an AC Milan side that contained legends of the game in Paolo Maldini, Cafu, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf; Kaka and Andrei Shevchenko at their peaks, and the likes of Jaap Staam, Gennaro Gattuso and Hernan Crespo. You were the driving force behind that sensational comeback victory Steven – you were better than all those so-called legends of the game that night.
I also must mention the 2006 FA Cup final, or as has come to be known – The Gerrard Final. To have an FA Cup final named after you is pretty special. Sir Stanley Matthews was the last man to have that honour and he wasn’t a half bad footballer. And what about the 2008/09 season where, alongside a rampant Fernando Torres you almost fired Liverpool to the title, in the process, thrashing eventual winners Manchester United 4-1 in their own backyard with an almost virtuosic solo performance? The fact Ryan Giggs won PFA Footballer of the Year instead of you having scored a paltry 4 goals in 47 appearances compared to your 24 goals in 44 appearances was an enormous travesty of justice.
I must also mention the 2013/14 Premier League season. You may be remembered for that fateful slip against Chelsea but, without your herculean efforts throughout the campaign, we wouldn’t have been anywhere near a position to challenge for the title. One slip does not define a man Steven, but a lifetime of inspirational performances in the red of Liverpool does.
I know you’ve made your decision and it will be very hard to face next year without you, but please come back and visit. We’ll certainly miss you. The past 16 years have been a wonderful journey, through many highs and a few lows, but nevertheless a journey that has seen you symbolise everything that is great about Liverpool Football Club.
So here’s to you, Steven Gerrard.
David de Winter