“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”- Warren Bennis
Steven George Gerrard announced his retirement from professional football tonight and with it goes every Liverpool fan's one last wish to see him in a red shirt again. He left to play in the MLS last summer but there has not been a game where his loyal army have not sung their supreme leader's name.
Gerrard, the boy who lived his dream, has been regarded as one of the best to ever don a Liverpool shirt and with the impact that he had on the Reds during his illustrious career, it is easy to say that the captain was a true legend; a term which may not completely justify his importance to Liverpool Football Club.
Growing up in Huyton, Liverpool, the midfielder joined the Reds academy aged just nine. He signed his first professional contract in 1997 before making his debut for the then Gerrard Houllier-managed side in 1998 against Blackburn Rovers in a Premier League game as a last minute substitute. Steven Gerrard or Stevie G, as he was fondly called by the Liverpool supporters, had a glorious career spanning 17 years at Anfield as he won 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 1 Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 Community Shield.
How his career panned out with Liverpool
Gerrard made his first start against Tottenham Hotspur but it was a debut to forget as he was hassled in his 55-minute appearance by David Ginola. After winning a number of trophies including a treble in 2001, in which he scored a brilliant goal in the UEFA Cup final against Alaves, Gerrard was handed the captaincy in 2003 as he took over the armband from Sami Hyypia.
He once said, "Sometimes I stop on the drive home from Melwood and just sit in the car and tell myself, I'm captain of Liverpool football club." There were many candidates back then who were more suited to the captaincy role than the lanky midfielder but it was his zeal and love for the club which made him the right person to lead the Merseyside club.
Then came the 2005 Champions League final performance against AC Milan which ensured that his name would be etched in Liverpool's folklore. He increased his greatness after yet another big match display in the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham. Gerrard's best season was probably the 2008-09 season where he scored 24 goals and earned him the FWA Player Of the Year award.
He also played a crucial role in Liverpool's title race in the 2013-14 season before a twist of fate which involved his own wrongdoing, meant that the only title that was missing from his cabinet, the Premier League crown, eluded him once more.
Gerrard left for LA Galaxy after the 2014-15 season and after playing a season in the sunny pastures of the United States, the 36-year-old is expected to take up a role at the Liverpool academy to train the U18s.
Importance to Liverpool FC
The 36-year-old played in a number of positions during his career as different Liverpool managers employed him in different positions – centre midfield, attacking midfield, the flanks and even as a full-back. Despite having a number of offers from a host of clubs, Gerrard chose to stay at the club where he was revered at and the place which he called his home.
The game has lost arguably the most influential midfielder of England's golden generation as not many players were able to instil their authority on the game as well as he did. Some may have won more titles and others may have scored more goals but for Gerrard, it was never about the numbers. He was a player upon whom an entire team, an entire city, an entire fan base looked upon to deliver the goods and he gave to Liverpool more than what was expected of him.
There was no doubt that a loyal player of the ilk of Gerrard would have racked up title after title if he had been at Chelsea or Real Madrid. Yet it was his undying desire to give back to the place where it all started for him that kept him going. He scored goals of all types and there aren't many current players who may be called a ‘complete player’ like him.
He could pass, he could score, he could head the ball, he could score from the spot, he could tackle, he would do absolutely anything what was asked of him. In short, he was Mr. Liverpool and Mr. Dependable.
Best Steven Gerrard moments
His first sensational goal was the screamer that he scored against Manchester United as he scored a 30-yard thunderbolt which would have taken the net along. Then came a much-needed goal in the group stages of the Champions League against Olympiakos as Liverpool needed a goal in the dying stages to send them into the knockout stages.
As they say, 'Cometh the hour, Cometh the man' – Gerrard as Neil Mellor cushioned a pass in his direction as the Reds captain hit a sweet half-volley from 25 yards which sent Anfield into euphoria. It was a goal of the highest quality and came from a man who was arguably the best midfielder in the world in his prime years.
Miracle in Istanbul which enabled Liverpool to win their fifth European title was kick-started by their captain who headed in from a John Arne Riise cross. The 2006 FA Cup final is also known as the Steven Gerrard final as he scored two sensational goals to claim the domestic honour. He has helped the Reds out of critical situations on an insane number of times with his presence in midfield being the focal point of Liverpool's every attacking move.
Steven Gerrard loved playing against Everton and he scored a delightful treble against the bitter rivals in the 2011-12 season. He also scored on multiple occasions at Old Trafford, making him the highest scoring opposition player at Manchester United home ground. His rallying cry after Liverpool's 3-2 win over Manchester City in the 2013-14 season was also an important moment as it showed how much it meant for a boy who looked up to the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness to become a man and fill in their shoes.
Steven Gerrard - The Enigma
Many regard him as the best Liverpool player ever to play for the Reds (some say Kenny Dalglish is the greatest, the Scot won everything that was there to be won as a player during his time at Anfield) but, it is a matter of fact that Steven Gerrard would have gone into any of Liverpool's title-winning teams with his tremendous ability, physical and mental strength and a drive to win.
Can anyone say that Kenny Dalglish or any other player who were constantly compared to Gerrard would have won so many accolades playing with the likes of Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan, Anthony Le Tallec, Salif Diao, Paul Konchesky, David Ngog and Josemi? The answer is an obvious and a simple no.
Steven Gerrard was a world class player who played in ordinary teams throughout his career yet managed to make himself one of the greats of the game just because of his sheer grit.
He gave it all when he donned an English jersey and was capped 114 times. His performance in the 5-1 drubbing of Germany in 2001 is still talked about. He served as an idol for an entire generation and played selflessly throughout his entire career. People have judged him on the basis of the absence of a league title in his trophy cabinet, but that was due to the team he was playing in rather than himself.
Steven Gerrard was a man of honesty and integrity as he showed that on a number of occasions. When there were talks of him leaving the Reds for Chelsea in 2005, he assured the supporters that he wasn't going anywhere. When it became clear that Liverpool's former manager, Brendan Rodgers did not have Gerrard in his plans for the future, the 36-year-old had his cue as he left to play in the MLS last summer.
Best quotes on Steven Gerrard
“He has become the most influential player in England, bar none. More than Vieira. Not that Vieira lacks anything, but I think that Gerrard does more for his team than Vieira does, and has way more to his game. I’ve watched him quite a lot. To me, Gerrard is Keane. Everywhere the ball is, he seems to be there. He’s got that unbelievable engine, desire, determination. Anyone would love to have Gerrard in their team.” - Sir Alex Ferguson
“Sometimes you have a player like Gerrard. For me, for the last five years, Gerrard has been the best player in the world." - Pele
“Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Messi and Ronaldo but, yes, I think he just might be. If you don’t have a player like Steven Gerrard, who is the engine room, it can affect the whole team." - Zinedine Zidane
Liverpool supporters had a line for their beloved captain - "The best there was, the best there is and the best there ever will be" for Steven Gerrard which may not be an overstatement. He was one of the best players ever to come out of Liverpool and England and Gerrard constitutes a dying breed of footballers which are hard to find these days.
No matter where he decides to begin his coaching journey, Gerrard will remain a legend in every Liverpudlian's heart and soul. He was the hero that Liverpool deserved and also needed at that time. Sometimes people need their faith to be rewarded and their faith in the shrine which worshipped the likes of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish was restored when a boy from Huyton took it upon himself to wear the Liverpool Red with pride all his life.