Steven Gerrard: Oh, the Okey-Cokey-Cokey

Posted by Paul Tomkins on July 6, 2005, 09:50:28 AM

I'm not sure if overseas readers are familiar with the Okey-Cokey-Cokey (is it a worldwide phenomenon?), but I can assure that it is not related to Bolivian marching powder. It involves putting your leg 'in', taking it 'out', and putting it in again. And, predictably, taking it out once more.

Basically, it's a dance that involves a lot of indecision. And it's a rather annoying dance at that.

Ninety minutes: the length of one football match, and all it took for Steven Gerrard to make redundant my article, published at 1pm yesterday, on why he should either sign up, or ship out. Turned out he was doing the latter.

Then at 9am this morning, just as I was about to publish my follow-up piece on how the club can move forward in his absence, given the dramatic change of events, he goes and changes his mind. Again. And dramatically.

I pride myself on trying to commentate on the major events surrounding the club (the quality of these commentaries is open to debate), but I'm struggling to keep up with the changes in this saga.

So my piece yesterday, while still out of date, is partly relevant again: sign up, or ship out. Sign up, or ship out.

"He realises how much the club means to him," said Rick Parry, and a sense of déjà vu engulfed me. I had to check the date of the BBC article: was it from 2004?  While Parry did not confirm it, I had to wonder if it was all a bid to make fans burn their 'Gerrard' shirts and pay £40 for new ones.

Can we take our affections being played with anymore? Gerrard is coming across like a man trying desperately to leave his wife for a mistress, but ends up staying out of a sense of fear and misplaced loyalty. Alternatively, maybe it is only in the 'leaving' that he realises what his heart actually contains. If it's the former, trouble still awaits; if it's the latter, then there is still some hope. But frankly, I'm getting a little cynical.

Why does it take such extreme reactions to make Gerrard realise what the club means to him? Didn't lifting the freakin' European Cup six weeks ago mean anything? How did that get forgotten yesterday, and remembered today? That's where I'm struggling to keep up. What has changed?

Surely if his heart was 100% in the task, he'd not come so close to leaving in successive summers? Without wishing to state the obvious, either he wants to play for Liverpool, or he doesn't. What we don't need is what lies in between. We don't need 50% commitment to the club and the cause. We don't need Stev Rrard or Even Ger; we need Steven Gerrard.

I was looking forward to Rafa building a new side, full of players who want to play for Liverpool, be they from Bootle or Timbucktu. Now we have one sulky, confused malcontent throwing the manager's plans into disarray by the hour. Frankly, it's starting to seem far from good enough. It needs more than a press conference; it needs a big beaming smile from the club captain.

This was my thinking at 8.59 am this morning:

While he would never admit to wanting Gerrard gone, I feel Rafa will see the positives: a player who was outgrowing his boots, and who was unbalancing the club.

Benítez' problem was that, as the overseas coach, he would be on shaky ground if seen to force out a local icon. Of course, if Gerrard was 100% committed to Liverpool, and humble in all his actions, Benítez would have no desire to see the back of the player. The 'old' Gerrard (pre-summer 2004), who would never give leaving Liverpool a second thought (even when the team was stagnating), is not the player Benítez is losing.

He is losing a player who feels Liverpool is no longer good enough for him; that he is too good for Liverpool.

No manager wants a player he has to virtually beg to stay at the club: to ask his captain to 'please do us a favour' and stay to grace the team with his presence. It sets a bad tone for the entire club. Especially when that malcontent is being paid £100,000 a week  –– the wages of five good players –– to do the manager the 'favour' of staying and turning out for his team.


So while the news has changed, that's basically my position. And I guess it remains the same: stay, or go, just don't muck about. All this indecision is doing the club more harm than good. (I'll save the earlier article, just in case there is another dramatic, unexpected, surprising change of heart, and I'll have all bases covered, unless Gerrard states that all he wants to do is play for Marine on YTS wages.)

A Steven Gerrard who wants with all his heart to be at Liverpool is a massive asset; anything less, and we'd be better off with £40m. If he stays, it's up to him to show it's for the right reasons.

© Paul Tomkins 2005

"Golden Past, Red Future" is available from www.paultomkins.com, the HJC shop, and is FINALLY on Amazon with "Availability: usually dispatched within 24 hours."
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0954958020/qid%3D1118674487/202-5459723-9868624




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