This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 15 November, 2018

Ignore Fergie, Steven Gerrard was unquestionably a top, top player

The former Man United boss famously questioned the pedigree of the Liverpool legend in his most recent autobiography.

Gerrard scored 120 goals in 504 appearances for Liverpool.
Gerrard scored 120 goals in 504 appearances for Liverpool.

FOR STEVEN GERRARD, the stats speak for themselves. In modern football, players are little more than pieces of meat, as Roy Keane once memorably said, however Gerrard — who confirmed that he was retiring earlier today following a brief and underwhelming period with LA Galaxy – appears to be the exception that proves the rule.

He transcended the cynicism rife in modern-day football and spent an incredible 17 years with one team, building a thoroughly unique level of affinity with the Anfield club’s fans in the process.

You need only look at the company the Liverpool legend is in when it comes to players who have spent all or most of their career at one club — Xavi, John Terry, Paolo Maldini, Philipp Lahm, Ryan Giggs…

Football supporters are often quite fickle and will turn on a player in a matter of weeks, irrespective of what he has achieved previously, should he suddenly start producing a couple of below-par performances.

Only players of enormous talent can consequently persevere and get away with spending all or most of their career with the same side. Moreover, it also takes a special character to stand by their team irrespective of the obvious temptations to move elsewhere.

There is no doubt that Steven Gerrard, at his peak, could have played for virtually any side in the world (there are a few obvious exceptions like Everton and, despite the apparent best attempts of Alex Ferguson, Man United).

Granted, Gerrard could have won countless more trophies had he — for instance — accepted Jose Mourinho’s tireless advances and moved to Chelsea in 2005.

Yet greatness isn’t judged purely by silverware — Alan Shearer, another superb player who had just one solitary Premier League medal to his name, is routinely ranked among the best players to have graced the English top flight.

However, while he surely underachieved, Gerrard still won countless more trophies than most footballers can ever dream of — 3 League Cups, 2 FA Cups, 2 Super Cups, 1 Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 Community Shield is spectacular by most people’s standards.

In addition, one particular myth that’s been perpetuated by certain critics is that Gerrrad supposedly didn’t show up in the big games, but his standing as the only player to score in an FA Cup Final, League Cup Final, Uefa Cup Final and European Cup Final illustrates why that theory should be dismissed out of hand.

Source: LFCBenH/YouTube

In a manner befitting of a cruel tragedy or black comedy depending on your perspective — he will forever, somewhat unfairly, be irrevocably associated with Liverpool’s agonising near miss, as they narrowly failed in their bid for Premier League glory in the 2013-14 season.

His slip against Chelsea was unfortunate, but anyone who genuinely believes it cost Liverpool the Premier League title clearly wasn’t paying much attention to the true source of the Reds’ downfall — a defence that conceded 50 goals, almost twice as many as Chelsea, and 13 more than eventual champions Man City.

With 13 goals in 34 games and 14 assists (more than any other player that year) to his name in the 2013/14 campaign, Liverpool patently lost the league in spite of rather than because of the club captain.

Some critics, most notably Alex Ferguson, have questioned whether he was a ‘top, top player,’ and the Merseyside native undoubtedly had flaws, but all great players do.

The greatest shame about Gerrard’s career is that several coaches have misused the star and failed to make the most of his strengths. This issue was most notable during the player’s time with England in particular, when manager after manager persisted with the obviously flawed formula of Gerrard and Lampard as a midfield two. Without a classic holding midfielder to protect their weakness and accentuate their strengths, this overtly attacking combo seemed destined to fail despite the insistence of many that they could in fact play together. Evidence on the pitch, more often than not, suggested otherwise.

The Liverpool star was never a classic midfielder in his heyday. Instead, he was far more effective, for instance, playing in front of Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso — more disciplined and defensive-minded players who gave Gerrard the freedom to produce the type of spectacular moments in which he specialised.

He may have defined games but seldom controlled them in the manner of a Roy Keane or a Xavi — but this is not a criticism per se — he was simply a different type of player who had alternate talents to these other legends of the game.

Gerrard may have developed into more of a holding player as age restricted his ability to do damage in the final third, but he will always be remembered as a buccaneering midfielder, the intensively throbbing heart of Liverpool’s improbable Champions League triumph along with many other memorable nights at Anfield and beyond.

And with 120 goals in 504 league appearances and counting, he was undeniably brilliant in his customary goalscoring, box-to-box role.

As another legendary one-club man, Francesco Totti, put it: “Steven Gerrard would be the captain of my World XI dream team.”

N.B. A version of this piece was originally publuished on 2 January, 2015.

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

17 brilliant pictures of Steven Gerrard’s career with Liverpool>

Ankle surgery puts Gareth Bale in doubt for World Cup qualifier against Ireland>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

Read next:


    Trending Tags