This is a man who plays for every Red; every man, woman or child who backs the side. Right now we speak of him in present tense but due to the rigours or time and the scars of battle Steven Gerrard will soon be a legend of the past.
With his trusty lieutenant Jamie Carragher over the 700 appearance mark, his best days are behind him so soon the search for a new captain will commence.
To take over this cherished and privileged position will take someone who symbolises the clubs traditions and is the embodiment of the club. As our current captain and his deputy reach the autumn of their long and fruitful on-field association with the club we will be catapulted into a new era. The last man who wielded his power to produce a new captain was Gerard Houllier who chose three men who wore the armband before the man from Huyton was ready lead the club.
Do we go for a cajoler, someone who can lift the team through volume, do you go for the quiet word in the ear type or the dedicated pro who leads by example who simply catches his teammates with a steely glance when things dont go to plan? The answer to this is all three. There are times for the “hairdryer”, the arm around the shoulder and the glance; respect is key. Our candidates need to be able to find solutions in dealing with different personalities at different times and practice what he preaches.
What our number 8 has is presence, he has acquired this over the years, the play follows him rather than the alternative, his team-mates look for him and to him for inspiration. This has been born out of first class displays in a stellar career. Have we a ready-made alternative or will we have to go outside the club like Roy Evans did with Paul Ince?
Previous stand-in’s have been our recently departed, dependable Dutchman Dirk Kuyt who has made tracks to pastures new, and our charismatic shot stopper Pepe Reina. Of course the former is to be ruled out, but what about Pepe? The man brings a wealth of experience to the table, he has won the respect of his peers and has a genuine affinity with the club. His doubters will not be of the goalkeepers union arguing that he is too far from the cut and thrust of the game to really influence matters on the field. Will his bellowing Spanish tones be as audible in the final third as it certainly is for the defense? Will his ability to galvanise those in his direct proximity be enough. Off the field he has been scandal free and enjoys almost universal popularity despite a less than impressive year.
If Martin does not win the tackle you can be sure that Dan won’t be far behind to mop up; they balance and counter balance each other. The Danish international is perhaps the more vocal of the two, with a more outgoing nature, he can communicate his point to his colleagues while his fellow lynchpin can lead by example. Of course this is subject to the pair committing themselves to the club with more than words but by putting pen to paper. Commitment at the top trickles down to the rest of the squad, so if the leaders are confident that their ambitions can be fulfilled at the club then chances are others will follow suit.
Finally, a man whose popularity has come full circle with the fans - Lucas Leiva. From the supposed weak link in “the best midfield in the world” alongside heavyweights Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano he was derided as the most unBrazilian Brazilian ever to grace the Premiership. Those jibes must have hurt the former Under 20′s captain of his national side, but he didn’t shirk and stuck to the task of improving every week to become a player who was badly missed from November last year through injury. If, as we hope, the young midfielder progress’ continues his upward trajectory we will have a world class player on our hands and someone we can build the clubs future around. Sat on the base of the midfield he is in a position where he can expand his game under Brendan Rodgers who will be drumming his philosophy on to the players. Like Skrtel he is not the most boisterous vocally but he is already one of our most experienced players even at the tender age of 25. It remains to be seen over the coming months how he has recovered from a very serious knee injury but if his development improves further we may have a future captain on our hands.
We know that our current holder of the armband is almost irreplaceable and speaking about who comes next may sound premature and hopefully we won’t be taking this debate too seriously for years to come. So I raise a glass to many more magic moments from Stevie G before he eventually calls it a day to make way for the next man to take the mantle.