Friday, 2 January 2015

In praise of...Steven Gerrard

End of an Era
With the sad news of Steven Gerrard choosing to leave his only club Liverpool at the end of this his 17th season, it is another indicator of a player not being able to end his career on his terms. Unlike his team mate, Jamie Carragher who chose to call it a day by not wanting to play for anyone else; Gerrard still feels he can play a part at some level of football. The initial intention is that this means he is heading for the pasture of MLS in America like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane, however, could he do what Frank Lampard did and come back to the Premier League on a loan move which ultimately upsets more people yet still maintains his desire to play at a high level.

What does it mean for Gerrard? Already this season, you have seen Gerrard slowing down or unable to play the two games a week needed for a Champions League outfit. At the start of the season, he was playing his number four or deep lying midfielder allowing him to spray passes to sprinting forwards. Yet due to transfer dealings and player injuries, Gerrard has had no outlet for his creative input. His best game this season came in early December away at Leicester where he played as a number 10 behind the front man of Rickie Lambet. His link up play was good and his cut and thrust led to chances aplenty. 

Perhaps, Brendan Rodgers cannot find a position for him or the fact that Rodgers dropped him regularly meant Gerrard could not commit to a club where he could not start every game, yet maybe Gerrard needed to accept the advancing of time.  His legs were effectively shot at the World Cup after the gruelling culmination of a potential championship season.  The image of Gerrard slipping and handing possession to Demba Ba to score for Chelsea at the Kop End will be an indelible image yet should not be considered the only reason Liverpool did not win Gerrard's only league title.

Like his contemporary, Frank Lampard, Gerrard needs to find a space and role in a team going forward where he can be creative and integral to the team performance. How ironic that on the day Gerrard made his decision, Lampard was scoring his fifth goal of the season for Manchester City with his first touch when coming on as a substitute with 20 minutes remaining in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. Lampard had the last word. Gerrard did score two penalties for Liverpool in a disappointing home 2-2 draw with Leicester. Apart from those two goals, Gerrard's impact was minimal and deflating.

Whereas, Lampard has the engine and fitness to run all day, Lampard seems enthused by the idea to become a veritable super sub as he showed when scoring against Chelsea earlier in the season. Gerrard's modus operandi is having an influence on the game from the outset means it may take longer for him to realise and adjust. Based on form alone this season, would Gerrard start for any team in the top six should he become available. And would he want to play for anyone else. Can you imagine Gerrard playing for either Manchester side or even Arsenal?

In a sport where money is no object seemingly, the price of loyalty has diminished and the opportunity for any player to depart or leave the scene on his own terms has vanished. Unlike Ledley King who had to retire due to injury as a one club man, the loyal servant of football like Carragher or Paul Scholes has gone.  

If Gerrard had lifted the Premier League trophy in May instead of Vincent Kompany it may well have given him the perfect ending to a glittering career. Instead, Gerrard becomes that very typical modern footballer, a talent who has become a nomad. That is no way for any talent to end. With no direction or clue of the journey that he has navigated so proudly ending.

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