My Favourite Player #8 - Steven Gerrard
Posted by Danyaals Kop on November 17, 2012, 01:12:59 PM
Steven George Gerrard.
You don't realise how much you miss something till it's gone and to be honest, you really can't believe it's been 14 years since a young scrawny looking teen who came off the bench against Blackburn to make his debut would go on to still be a part of the club here now in 2012, now a living legend who symbolizes and epitomizes Liverpool Football Club and has had to bear all that we have had to bear as a player and a fan of the club.
To be honest, I'm not good with words and can't really portray my emotions with a simple tribute article but I just had to claim dibs on writing on Gerrard as My Favourite Liverpool Player because frankly, I love the man. For everything he has done for us and continues to do. Having to be a part of all the highs that the club has gone through since I can remember and experiencing the barrels of deep shit we creaked ourselves into, and also being one of those affected on a personal level by Hillsborough and awaiting justice, he bore it all along with us.
He's been at the club since he was 9, scouted after playing for the local club Whiston Boys, but he didn't have to learn the Liverpool Way but he was part of it since he was born. And as the chants goes : ''Steven Gerrard is our captain, Steven Gerrard is a Red, Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool, a scouser born and bred.
Since the earliest memory of me supporting the Reds, I can remember Stevie being part of the set up. Deployed in the numerous positions such as centre mid or even at times a right back under Houllier to a secondary striker or being shifted to a right wing under Rafa, he's continued to give it all. I doubt I have ever seen a more 'complete' player who knows how to defend and attack, and can diligently perform the box to box role as Gerrard. In my view, he's acquired all the traits of football and mastered a few along the way. And when someone like Zidane labels Gerrard as one of the greatest midfielder of all time, you know he fucking means it.
It might be a low point in his career but you could see emotions caught up with him as blood boiled in his first Merseyside Derby as he lunged onto Kevin Campbell. Naive yes, but the commitment, determination and will of a player who wanted to endear himself to the Kop was there to see from the start.
I can remember Stevie working his way up the team and then cementing his place in the starting squad with the continued absence of Jamie Redknapp, where he'd pair with Gary Mac and then go on to play a vital role during the treble season. He'd score a goal in the UEFA Cup final v Alves as he latched onto a through ball by Owen and smashed it with his right foot past the keeper. You could see Gerrard had the flair in his game, even as a player making his way up. The eye to pick a pass, the timing of his tackles in the centre of the park, the consistent pressing, the understanding between him and each striker he played with, it be Owen, Fowler, Torres or now Suarez, to his shot with the power of a thousand hammers which would near break the net and put Thor's might to shame.
He continued to flourish with goals such as that against United when he blasted it past Barthez from 35 yards out, or would hit it from the edge of the area in the League Cup final in 03' or even as back to his first goal for us against Sheffield Wednesday whether he received the ball near the centre of the pitch and powered forward, weaving past two players before lacing the ball into the net and celebrating not for the last time in a place he'd call home. But as time passed Gerrard matured and was to be given more responsibility, etching him in Liverpool history replacing Sami as captain. Having nagged off injuries which were hampering some of his development, Gerrard also signed a new four year deal and continued to perform but them started to lag and after having finish 03/04 trophy-less and Houllier resigning, the first saga of Gerrard's career embroiled.
Chelsea under their new Russian owner had been splashing the cash and with the arrival of European Cup winner, José Mourinho were attracted in securing Stevie from us. To be honest, the lack of progress had been disappointing but with the arrival of a new certain Spanish gaffer who'd just led Valencia to 2 league titles, and in doing so breaking the Madrid-Barça monopoly, he felt it was the right choice made by Liverpool and decided to have another crack by staying for at least another season.
That season (04/05), Gerrard was at his peak. Even thought he was injured in early September, he came back for another magical night at Anfield where he seemed to be given it his all, with every ounce of his energy, he was making us rise from the depth. Having been 1-0 down and having to win by 2 goals in order to qualify, Liverpool started the second half against Olympiacos on 8th Dec 2004 at Anfield. Goals from Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor gave us the lead but Liverpool still needed another goal so they wouldn't wake up the following night looking at possible UEFA Cup contender. Cue Steven Gerrard in front of the Kop, in the last minutes, panda-fucking-monium, a legend was born....
'' Onto Mellor, Lovely Cushioned Header, FOR GERRARD, OOOOHHHHH YAAAAAAAA BEEEUUUUTYYYYYY!!!!!!!! WHAT A HIT SON, WHAT A HIT!!!!!! ''
That wasn't it as he'd lead Liverpool in ties v Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea, the club that nearly took his team away from his childhood club were knocked out en route to Istanbul. I'd like to think that after the Cheslea game, the joy, the relief, the euphoria and the celebrations were for us and also sticking two fingers at Chelsea as our captain lead us to face AC Milan.
Then, probably the biggest game of his life, the greatest night of my life and the pivotal moment in certifying that this was a player who had/would shake the Kop and had established himself among Anfield folklore. On the 25/05/2005, 3-0 down at half time, having your belief restored by the gaffer that the crowd believed in you after the most moving version of You'll Never Walk Alone at half time, it was Gerrard who started the comeback. It wasn't the best of crosses by Riise but with each neck muscle he could turn to gather the momentum of heading the ball perfectly, Gerrard forced the ball into the top right corner from a good 15 yards out and ran back signalling to the travelling Kop that this was our night, that we'd waited for 21 years. A Smicer goal later, we were on the attack again as a lovely lay off by Garcia had Gerrard clean on goal but the faintest of touches by Gattuso sent him down as the referee pointed to the spot and the comeback of all times was completed by Xabi Alonso. Throughout the remainder of the game, Gerrard consistently hounded the AC Milan players, yet having the will to join our attack and drag his ass around the pitch for us. I remember a particular moment where Serginho had been brought on with a fresh pair of legs and he was a quick fella yet Gerrard 110 mins into the game, came rushing in and executed an inch perfect challenge to dispossess him. Later on the night, he was due to take the 5th penalty for us but the weight didn't have to fall on his shoulder as Dudek denied Milan three times before Gerrard had captained his club to their 5th Champions League trophy.
As the summer of 2005 fell, no one really gave a thought that Gerrard might leave but somehow, it nearly happened as Chelsea came in for him again. I like to dwell on the positive not instead of being one of those who still hold that against him because, instead of joining a team which was definitely on the rise and had won the league with ease and were favourites to do it again, he decided to bite his lip and in the end come to the conclusion he could never come in terms with leaving the club he loved. Despite the money, for him it was a matter of honour and in recent times as we've seen, Gerrard stayed where many could have abandoned. A new contract and clearing of confusion resolved the problem. Gerrard was here to stay.
Though the 05/06 campaign, Gerrard got better if that was even possible. Despite an abject failure in defending the European crown, we looked solid in the league. With the backing of a resolute defence, we were facing problems up front yet Gerrard continued to thrive and deliver with the goals, along the way scoring some screamers such as the one against Boro from 40 yards out. He would go on to score 23 goals and be voted PFA player of the year. Again, great satisfaction must have been received knocking out Chelsea in the FA Cup semis but Gerrard's best moment that season was against the Hammers in Cardiff. Not many people can say that they have had a cup final named after them, but then again, Gerrard isn't one of them. From the brink of defeat, Gerrard alone rescued Liverpool from embarrassment as he first set up Cisse with a precise cross from his own half, then later he'd go and flash in our second goal on the half volley before we witnessed one of the greatest goals in cup final history. With the announcer's voice booming around the stadium to announce 4 minutes added time, Gerrard ran off his hamstring before striking the ball from a good fucking 40 yards out on the volley sending the Millennium Stadium into ruptures, Martin Tyler into orgasm mode, and me mental as he drew us level. I'd like to think Andy Gray summed him up pretty well that day; ''You have been immense, if anyone ever doubted your value to your side, you have just blown them away with most incredible goal we have seen in a cup final.... when you're on the brink of stoppage time, you're fighting against everything and you pop up with this ? Absolutely top draw, magnificent, quality, class, everything that's good about football son - you got it. You've definitely got it.''
We know the name, son.
We were fucking good and getting our flow back. Another season, another European final but this time in Athens. Operating in a secondary striker position but this time unable to break the Milan defence, we lost 2-1 and things off the pitch started to take a turn for the worse as H&G bought Liverpool. Still, on the pitch, the team was doing the same old stuff.. another European game, another European night, another Red night. One of the greatest away games ever when we beat Barca at Nou Camp, PSV Eindhoven were disposed easily and then Chelsea in the semis (a bit of habit that) on the way to Athens before losing to a fucking deflection and Inzaghi rounding Reina.
Fast forward to August where Rafa was on the brink of the perfect balance. With Alonso pairing with Mascherano now, Stevie was now given the freedom to focus more of his ability in attack and with the arrival of Fernando Torres, a consistent goalscorer, we were contending for many trophies. Europe never seems a major problem in the end even if we did it the hardway but that's the beauty of being a Liverpool fan - the thrill. Yet, in league we lacked the consistency. Gerrard and Torres were forming the best partnership seen at the club since the days of Dalglish and Rush and both continued to flourish and telepathically link up with one another. In 08/09 however, it was the closest Liverpool came to the league in 20 odd years as they put up a valiant effort. We depended on the likes of Torres and Gerrard up front while our challenger's United had Berbatov, Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez leading their line. That was supposed to be our season and the season Gerrard should
have lifted the premier league but for whatever reason fate was a bitch and it wasn't to be. Yet, I'll be honest, that season was one of the best that I've experienced with the habit of coming back to secure games from any position or to hitting Real Madrid, Manchester United and Aston Villa for 13 goals in a matter of days. We had our moments that year. We bombed the Bridge, Gerrard scored two against La Liga giants, and dispatching a penalty past United while Andrea fucking Dossena was chipping Van Der Sar for our fourth goal at Old Trafford. Then a hat-trick against Villa who were actually a decent side back then. Not to forget that Fulham away game. I'm proud of that season - Gerrard on a personal level was excellent and deserved player of the year but I do look back at it with slight regret of what could have been as the next few years have been pretty hard.
Rafa was ousted from the club as uncle Roy came in after that season in 09/10 which I wish to forget. To be honest, many of our fans
clawed at Gerrard for backing Hodgson as manager but at that point, I think we really needed unity with the fanbase and on the pitch so that the club which was being drained off by the those on top and who Rafa had sacrificed his job for was not to be for a lost cause. Gerrard was merely doing what any club captain would have done and told us to back the man in charge now. Even then Gerrard was trying his best for the club... I can remember him scoring two at Old Trafford again when Liverpool were 2-0 down to level it 2-2. Bnd eventually when it did seem Roy wasn't the man for the club, another legend at the club who in a way had unfinished business club came and back. The King came home. Gerrard and Dalglish, two of the club's biggest legends were going to be part of the same plan. Fucking Christmas. Though, we had a very disheartening campaign, Gerrard was still there to help the Reds pick up there first piece of silverware after a while in the league cup final.
To be honest, you can't really sum up how Gerrard must have felt at the club in the last few years or so. He's now playing under his fifth manager at Anfield. It really gets to me that many of our own are quick to criticise every element of Gerrard's game they can find. Of course, he isn't the same player he was a couple of years ago. Then injuries and age were supposed to catch up with him but even still he can play part in our team. We will yearn the day Gerrard retires, because it is going to take one hell of a miracle to replace him. Players like him come only once in a lifetime and we are very blessed that he was born outside the gates of Anfield. Through out the years, he's displayed us moments of magic and has sometimes dragged us from the pits of hell and back on to Earth all by his self. The accuracy, the touch, the control, the burst of pace, the ability to link with any player on any part of the pitch, the shot, the pass, the skill, the technique, the power, the tempo, everything there is to football - I don't think but know Gerrard had it.
Now as he passes the 600th game for the club and still continues to play with the same desire he had all those years ago, I hope he can still perform on the level required and continue to do so but it makes my heart break cause I know he isn't going to play in a Red shirt forever. In a way, I urge ourselves to savour the moments we watch Stevie Gerrard play whether he be playing deep and running the game or be piledriving them from yards out, cause we might never experience a player like him before and we are privileged to have done so.
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard,
He'll pass the ball 40 yards
He's big and he's foookin hard
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard
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