A certain boy from Huyton made his debut for Liverpool FC as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers in 1998. Little did we know what he would achieve with LFC in his 14 year career, to date.
On (Sunday 4th November 2012) he clocked up an amazing 600th appearance in a red shirt against Newcastle, whilst just today he was named in the latest England squad where he will make his 100th appearance for the national team next week, versus Sweden.
Stevie has a natural ability and presence that intimidates many. He has excelled in every position he has played in whether that is right back, right winger, centre midfield and as a second striker. He can play anywhere and that has caused many a discussion as to where his best position is. I bet he would be a great Goalkeeper too!
For me, a fit Steven Gerrard can help the team achieve results anywhere on the pitch, a free role to do what he does best. He can literally get the game by the scruff of the neck and turn it on its head. Not many players can do that. This is what separates him out from other players.
Stevie has grown as a leader and footballer since making his debut as an 18 year old. We can all remember when he burst onto the scene that his tackling and temper were uncontrolled at times. 1999 saw him score his first goal by going past Des Walker against Sheffield Wednesday. He would do this many times – breaking from deep, showing pace and finishing clinically. Steven’s manager who gave him his debut, Gerard Houllier, guided him to maturity when his career could have gone in one of two directions.
Gerrard was instrumental in helping the Reds achieve the Treble in 2001 – scoring in the UEFA Cup Final against Spanish side Alaves. During the Frenchman’s tenure Steven scored many memorable goals; a screamer against the blue noses in 2001, and who could forget the effort against Fabien Barthez and Manchester United in the league.
Three moments stand out for me before Houllier left LFC in 2004:
Stevie’s last minute winner against Charlton Athletic in front of the Kop; the ground shook when the Kop went mad (I celebrated like I had won the lottery considering we were 1-0 down with five minutes left to play)!
A wonder goal in the Worthington Cup Final in 2003 against Manchester United; Barthez had no chance.
Finally, the defining moment in Gerrard’s career was taking the captain’s armband at the age of 23 from Sami Hyypiä in 2003. He relished the role and this helped him focus and gave him the platform to grow in stature as a player. His first game as captain was against Olimpija Ljubljana at Anfield.
When Rafa Bentiez arrived he transformed our Captain from a top class player to a world class footballer. With Rafa being a perfectionist he got the very best out of our number 8.
My top three favourite moments of Stevie G under Rafa Bentiez:
Who could forget Andy Gray’s ‘you beauty’ commentary when Gerrard hit the ball so sweetly against Olympiacos to take us through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, with just three minutes remaining on the clock.
3-0 down in the Champions League Final in Istanbul when no-one thought we would win, never mind score one goal. Step up Stevie G to score a wonderful header from a John Arne Riise cross. It gave the team and fans belief – his windmill arms raising the intensity around him as to say, “Come on we can do this!”
Pure grit and determination by Gerrard to break forward and win the penalty from Gennaro Gattuso’s tackle from behind, for the equaliser. The comeback all unfolded in 6 minutes 47 seconds (this will be imprinted in our memory forever).
He even kept Serginho quiet in the second half while playing right back. The rest, they say, is history!
Istanbul was made by many factors – everyone was a hero and rightly so – but there was one person’s influence which turned the game on its head. Not many Champions League finals have a driving desire from one player in the biggest game on the biggest stage of all.
Cometh the hour Cometh the Man
Stevie had done it again by scoring two goals in the 2006 FA Cup Final against West Ham. As the pitch announcer said there would be three minutes added time, I never thought in a million years that he would hit the ball so sweetly, even with cramp, as the ball went past Shaka Hislop. I thought we were down and out. It has got to be one of the greatest FA Cup goals of all-time. Steven even scored a penalty in the shootout – however that will not be recognised as a hat-trick!
He could have added a second Champions League final medal to his collection in 2007 but was unlucky to lose the rematch against AC Milan.
Under Rafa’s stewardship Steven played in many different roles, even scoring 21 goals from right midfield. It was his telepathic partnership with a certain Fernando Torres that stands out as his most productive period. Who knows what heights they would have achieved if Torres had stayed and helped Liverpool Football Club.
We all know that Gerrard did think of crossing to the dark side to play for money bags Chelsea, but he stayed loyal to his hometown club. In fact he has given EVERYTHING to the Liverpool cause.
Of course Gerrard and the team in general have had a mixed time over the last 18 months. The club is in a major transition at present but silverware arrived back to Anfield when Steven lifted the Carling Cup at Wembley in 2012. Stevie could have lifted the FA Cup too this year, only to lose the final against Chelsea.
Now Steven is influencing the younger generation of red stars in Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom. Hopefully the youngsters are able to use his advice to enhance their game.
Who knows how Stevie will evolve under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, but I am certain he will give 100% while wearing the red shirt. He could very easily adapt to become a deep lying midfielder, controlling the game in the long-term.
The hardest thing for someone like Steven Gerrard is to live up his own standards. The pressure he is under to excel is immense, as the club’s talismanic figure.
Barcelona’s midfield maestro Xaxi signed a shirt to Gerrard that simply said:
“to the toughest opponent I have played against”
I don’t think Xavi is far wrong at all.
Stevie is a model professional who now captains his national side and is just days away from making 100 appearances for his country. Gerrard has carried England in the last few tournaments and doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves while wearing the three lions on his chest.
Many people say that Gerrard is aloof off the pitch but I can tell you I have met him many times and he is a true gent. He is definitely a role model for your kids to look up to.
Gerrard has now setup the Steven Gerrard Foundation to provide relief to children and young people in need, whether through illness, family breakdown, disability, involvement in the streets, or financial and educational disadvantages.
He has a medal collection of 1 Champions League, 2 FA Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 2 Community Shields, 2 Super Cups and 3 League Cups – many players would love to achieve that list of honours. A collection to be proud of.
Steven received his Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) off the Queen in 2007 for his services to sport. Remember his celebration when he scored against Bolton on New Year’s Day 2007 at Anfield!
He has surpassed players like Digger, King Kenny and Mr Liddlepool himself, Billy Liddle, on the all-time appearance list. Gerrard is our leading goal scorer in European competitions with 39 goals.
Reds Goalkeeper Pepe Reina says of our Captain: “He will be remembered as a legend. A Liverpool legend – and one of the most important players in English history.”
What Stevie G has done for Liverpool Football Club is priceless. To me he is the greatest player of my generation to play for my club.
“Steven Gerrard is our captain,
Steven Gerrard is a red,
Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool
a scouser born and bred”
He really is a unique talent and will be greatly missed when he decides to hang up his boots.
Thank you Mr Stevie G our Captain Marvel!!!
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