MAKING his 400th league appearance against Everton last Tuesday, Steven Gerrard put his name into Liverpool’s record books once more. He was the man of the match by some distance and his hat-trick was the first in the Merseyside derby since Ian Rush put three past Everton at Goodison Park thirty years ago. It was another special night for our Captain Fantastic, a player who has had so many special nights in a red shirt.
Gerrard’s appearance against Everton was his 576th for Liverpool in all competitions and his hat-trick took his total goals tally for the club to 149. It also led to a number of Reds fans asking, is Stevie G the greatest player to ever wear the Liver bird on his chest?
With the Premier League title the only piece of major silverware to elude Gerrard in his fourteen seasons at Anfield, he is certainly the most decorated Liverpool player to never collect a league winner’s medal. Gerrard was part of our unique cup treble in 2001, put two goals past West Ham when we won the FA Cup in 2006 and who can forget his role in the miracle of Istanbul? Stevie G has been there for almost every Liverpool success story since the Reds last won the league title in 1990 and on most occasions, he has played a pivotal role in those successes.
Gerrard was named man of the match for both the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup Finals, with good reason. In Istanbul, Gerrard headed home Liverpool’s first goal and then won the penalty from which Xabi Alonso scored the rebound after Vladimir Smicer had pulled the score back to 3-2. At the Millenium Stadium in 2006, Stevie G equalised twice for Liverpool; his thirty yard strike in stoppage time to take the game to extra time was spectacular. Gerrard was so important in Liverpool’s 2006 FA Cup victory that after the game he was compared to Stanley Matthews, who played such a big role in Blackpool’s 1953 FA Cup win that the game was nicknamed the Matthews Final.
One of Gerrard’s greatest assets, both as a player and as Liverpool captain, is his ability to inspire those around him. Istanbul and Cardiff are just two examples when Stevie G’s never-say-die attitude has rubbed off on his teammate. His hat-trick this past Tuesday was a reminder of just how important he is to Liverpool and how much he has been missed during his injury troubles this season and last. At 31 years of age, Gerrard is still both willing and able to lead Liverpool to glory for a few more years at least; one can only hope he adds that elusive Premier League winner’s medal to his collection before he hangs up his boots.
Alongside Rush for Liverpool’s glory years in the ’80s (and there for numerous successes before Liverpool signed Rush!), Dalglish scored fewer goals but still played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s success. As a player, Kenny did more than just score goals – with a delicate touch and incredible vision, Dalglish created goals. After being named player-manager in 1985, King Kenny was able to inspire success both on the field and off it.
I’ll always look back on Liverpool’s success with Gerrard leading the team more fondly than the Dalglish and Rush era, particularly as I’ve been able to witness it firsthand. However I’m also respectful enough of Liverpool’s history to acknowledge that although Gerrard can take his place alongside Dalglish and Rush as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players, he hasn’t yet surpassed them. Gerrard could yet do more to stake his claim as our greatest ever; it’s something we should look at again after Stevie G retires, especially if he’s been able to lift the Premier League title by then.
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