In praise of Gerrard : A Titan amongst Pygmies!
Now into his 17th year of 1st team action it is impossible to separate the captain from the 21st century chapter in Liverpool FC history. Gerrard’s debut came in 1998 and within two years he was a mainstay of the 1st team, taking over the captaincy from Sammi Hypia in 2003. The new millenium has been dominated by the Manchester Clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea with Liverpool being forced into a a secondary role and often struggling for the top few league places. Yet they have still added 7 major trophies to the greatest list in British football. The FA Cup has been captured twice, The League Cup three times together with one UEFA Cup and the 2004/5 Champions League. It is no coincidence that Gerrard remains the only player to have scored in finals of all available cup competitions, League, FA, UEFA cups and The Champions League.
The debate about greatest players ever often rages, whether within a club, a nation, a continent and even globally. Yet nearly always the candidates have huge success with the clubs and or nations and are as such part of great teams. Gerrard is a glaring exception to this. The Liverpool teams that he has been part of have moved between the poor or mediocre up to decent sides at best. Compare the AC Milan side of the 2005 final to a Liverpool team that contained Dudek, Finnan, Jimmi Traore and Harry Kewell. As usual Gerrard had only 2 world class support players, Jamie Carragher and Xabi Alonso on this occasion. Milan fielded Maldini, Nesto, Stam, Pirlo, Cafu, Kaka, Seedorf and Shevchenko.
The 2001 UEFA Cup winning side could be looked at as even worse, however it did give Gerrard genuine world class support both up front in the form of Owen and Fowler and behind with the ever present Carragher. This treble winning outfit also finished runners up to Man United that season. United featured Stam, Neville, Keane, Scholes, Cole, York, Giggs, Beckham and Sherringham as well as Butt, Solskjaer, Berg and Irwin.
The 2013/14 squads of Liverpool compared with Man City or Chelsea is almost laughable. It is nothing short of a miracle that they managed to get that close and shows what can happen when Gerrard has a smattering of genuine world class around him. Luiz Suarez, Gerrard, Sterling and Sturridge gave Liverpool every shot at the title. This time however the immense Jamie Carragher was not present and thus the side were short of any real class in defence. No other side would have gotten anywhere near the title whilst shipping goals at the rate LFC managed. The galvanising effect and remarkable leadership of Gerrard together with the unreal Suarez dragged them toward the impossible. It should be remembered that Suarez was missing for the first section of season and still LFC competed with the top sides.
The games since the announcement of his departure have provided more evidence of the immense influence Gerrard retains. AFC Wimbledon were prevented from a famous result by the sheer force of the Skipper’s will. The first leg of the league cup semi final vs Chelsea may hint at the return of Liverpool to last years form, all be it without Suarez, but again Gerrard inspired and galvanised the side after they slipped behind. They remain just one titanic performance away from another Wembley final for the departing hero.
There remains the possibility of cameo returns from his MLS duties and then a return to the fold in another role. Surely the only way is for LFC do do the same for Gerrard as Manchester City did for Patrick Viera. A roving role within the club for a period in order for him to find where he can be of most value to the club and those who will always cherish what he gave them.
The new fan banner from last nights Chelsea semi final may sum it up. The best there is, The best there was & The best there ever will be?