Since making his debut in 98, Steven Gerrard has won admiration and praise throughout the footballing world. In his prime, he terrorised defences with his unstoppable runs through midfield and his wonderful strike of the ball. We all know the player our captain was and we know the player he has become. The Gerrard of this season is a shadow of his former self and he continues to stain his legacy. Many fans across social media hope to never see Stevie in a red shirt again. The memory of his immense talent is fading into the present of mediocrity.
The Chelsea slip, throwing Balotelli under the bus for taking a penalty, and now the senseless stamp on Herrera has left us with more bad memories of our hero. Some of us have watched Gerrard in his destructive prime, while the new generation of fans has only witnessed his self-destruction. I myself have only found a passion for football within the last five years and I have had the displeasure of watching the skipper’s decline exclusively. Now, the world class quality of Gerrard can only be found on YouTube. With each passing game, I worry that our icon will diminish his reputation further with more poor performances. Starting him in our current team has become a laughable suggestion and now a bench role has backfired as well.
However, I don’t believe the skipper is entirely to blame for this. He’s been managed poorly in these recent years and it’s a bit ridiculous to expect him to excel when played so often with his aging legs and numerous injuries. As a result, the thought of playing Gerrard in a two man midfield gives me nightmares. Also, he doesn’t have the positioning sense to shield the defence effectively at the base of a three. And finally, he doesn’t match the quality of our front three so that leaves us with no viable place beyond the bench.
Personally, I think this is the perfect time for him to go. Not because he’s outlived his usefulness on the pitch, but because I’m worried we’ll start to remember the bad more than the good. I want to think of the Stevie G song without him “on his arse.” I can forgive his slip but his recent behavior is not from the captain I know. It’s less depressing for me to see the decline of world class talent than to see the recent decline in his leadership. Since he can no longer lead with his playing ability, he needs to captain in a different way.
So does the new generation (this includes me) appreciate Steven Gerrard for what he was? New fans didn’t watch football when he brought us to Istanbul, the FA Cup victory, etc. Despite only being exposed to the last troublesome period of his career, I feel as if I have experienced his greatness through other means. I used to watch countless highlight videos of him but I never truly experienced his ability. But when he hit that absolute, long range beauty against Manchester City; it was like a view from his glorious past. The commentators, media, and Twitter exclaimed “What a Strike!” and “Vintage Stevie G!”
It was an epiphany to see that goal live and to be lifted out of my seat in awe. The goal made me understand what a force this man had been in his prime. It gave me perspective of the immense talent that chose to stay with us while surrounded by a collection of dross players. Everyone talks about the loyalty of Giggs, Lampard, Scholes, etc. but those players were involved in world class teams and were able to win innumerable amounts of silverware. Why would those players move anywhere else? But imagine if Gerrard had moved to that 2006 Chelsea team… Liverpool would probably have slipped into anonymity and Chelsea would have reigned supreme for years. His autobiography is riddled with how much that league title would have meant to him.
“I would give my left arm for a title winners’ medal,”
“Give me the Premier League title that season, however, and I would have gladly handed the Player of the Year trophy back.”
“I will never give up on that dream of winning the title.”
(Gerrard, Steven (2012-09-27). Steven Gerrard: My Liverpool Story)
Every season, our new signings come out and praise Stevie’s helpfulness and encouraging talks when they arrive. He may not be vocal on the pitch, but he definitely looks after his team-mates off of it. This is the Gerrard that I will remember. I don’t believe I would be a Liverpool fan or even a fan of football today without the story of inspiring allegiance from our captain. I didn’t admire Gerrard for his ability but instead for his passion for Liverpool. He epitomised the spirit of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and made it more than a song to me. That is the player I will remember as he departs Anfield for the final time and that is the legacy that will live on forever.