29th November 1998, a scrawny Scouser with the haircut of a 6th grader was called upon by then Liverpool manager Gerrard Houlier to replace right-back Vegard Heggem for the final few minutes. The lanky Scouser who wore kit number 28 was already the talk of the town. Every Kopite had heard about a feisty little 18 year-old who was making waves in the Youth setup knocking on the door of the first-team. Jamie Redknapp – Liverpool skipper ‘98 said, “You didn’t need to be a player or a coach to know how good he was. The bloke across the street knew he had something special about him.” And something special he was as he carried his hometown club through for over a decade racking up 695 appearances and 180 goals while collecting 10 Trophies along the way. The best ever to put on a Red shirt? Well, that remains to be answered, but for football enthusiasts born in the nineties – the name Steven Gerrard was unanimous with Liverpool FC. And that’s perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay to Huyton-born Scouser.
Perfect Timing ?
Liverpool fans are an educated bunch and that’s not a surprise because you don’t support a club that hasn’t won the league for over 20 years just for the glory, if there was any recently. While everyone did already have an idea as every Red in the world checked for updates on the morning of 2nd January 2014 for what their captain had to say, deep down every Red wished that a force of nature much like him on the football pitch would sway his decision just like it did back in 2006. The timing is just about right as far as Gerrard and Liverpool is concerned. The 34 year-old cannot ply his trade thrice a week for 90 minutes in the middle of the park like he once did so effortlessly and there is a crop of youngsters around the academy that look just about ripe to step up. Jamie Carragher summed up every Liverpool fan in his tweet earlier today as he tweeted, ‘Sad sad day for Liverpool FC and England with the Gerrard news but the right decision all things considered.’ Football is a fast-moving sport, just the morning of the Leicester game my timeline was full of ‘Why is Gerrard starting?’ and 24-hours later its full of ‘Greatest Liverpool player ever – Gerrard’. And it would have been hard for the skipper himself who has found himself on the bench many a times this season.
In a league less competitive than the EPL, the former England skipper can still grace the pitch for a good 2-3 seasons more. Take into consideration, that his friend Lampard had signed for New York City FC earlier this season albeit he cancelled it later; the MLS is a lucrative and tempting avenue for Gerrard. The skipper also spoke about his ambitions to play for another club before he hangs up his boots. The announcement on the morning of 2nd January 2015 was something Liverpool fans knew that it was coming but simply refused to believe.
Replacements ? Who’s Next ?
Replacements? Well, the number 8 jersey is a death-sentence waiting to happen for any ambitious youngster, next summer onwards. Jordan Henderson looks like the most natural fit to step into Gerrard’s boots. While the former Sunderland fan may not be as prolific and flashy as his skipper he certainly has the leadership qualities and drive to lead the Merseyside Reds. Emre Can is another who is very highly rated by everyone at Liverpool and the German finally looks to be settling into Anfield. Jordan Rossiter has already made his Anfield-bow and the 17 year old who was tipped by Robbie Fowler to be akin to Stevie G might get a run in the side next season.
Tributes flew in from all parts of the World as team-mates, peers and former colleagues all paid tribute to the phenomenon that was – Steven George Gerrard. In conclusion, the reason Steven Gerrard is rated so highly by every player he has ever shared the pitch with is that plying his trade in an average side, well below his own standards for more than a decade ignoring far more lucrative and attractive offers elsewhere, he showed loyalty beyond measure – something very rare in Football today. A force of nature on the pitch who could tackle, defend, inspire, pass and shoot like only he could; a model professional off it; Gerrard was the closest thing to a complete midfielder. As a Liverpool fan by its very definition, at the end of 2nd January 2015 I sleep hear-broken, supporting his decision but broken-hearted. My only hope is that this decision inspire the team to bag some trophy or trophies this season, just so that perhaps one of the best midfielders England has ever seen be remembered for what he did best and not for last season’s and the World Cup capitulation. A true Legend – Steven Gerrard – Mr. Liverpool, My Hero.