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article imageSteven Gerrard & Liverpool decide to part ways at the right time

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jan 3, 2015 in Sports
April 27, 2014, will sit in Steven Gerrard’s mind for the rest of his life. Of all the 695 club appearances and 180 goals scored, Gerrard will look back at this sunny afternoon at Anfield as the turning point in his career.
It was only two weeks prior that belief surfaced around Anfield, following a significant victory over Manchester City, that the iconic captain stood in the centre of a huddle and told his teammates “we don’t let this slip, we go again.”
Ironically, on this memorable April afternoon, Gerrard did just that. He fell victim to his own words against a resilient Chelsea side that inflicted the initial wound to Liverpool’s title collapse. It wasn’t the first time Gerrard had made an error that resulted in a goal, but never were the circumstances so significant.
Within touching distance of winning their first league title since 1990, Liverpool’s fairytale season quickly vanished. Being a man that joined the Reds at the tender age of eight, Gerrard understood the importance that came with bringing his boyhood club back to the top of English football. It was what he strived for throughout his whole career. The chance to lift the Premier League trophy over his head and be a champion in the most watched league in the world was a dream that never came true.
It was unfortunate that his senior debut came years following Liverpool’s peak, but his passion and fortitude to achieve trophies proved beneficial. It shaped Gerrard into the player many fell in love with. He wasn’t the most talented player, nor was he the most successful, but his self-belief provided moments that will be talked about for years.
That’s what Gerrard represents. At his absolute peak, he was one of the most revered players in the Premier League, but the pluck to single-handedly win Liverpool games was a unique trait that separated Gerrard from the rest.
The stunning strike against Olympiakos followed by an influential second half display against Milan guided Liverpool to the most unlikely European Cup triumph. 12 months later, he was involved in all three Liverpool goals, including an unstoppable injury time equalizer to lift the FA Cup in Cardiff.
When Liverpool appeared set for disappointment, it was Gerrard who rose to the occasion on the biggest stages. He lived for these moments. Moments you dream about as a kid at the local park, Gerrard turned into reality. His ice-cold veins, focused eyes, and industrious work ethic personified the valor that you would watch from afar with awe.
“It is almost an impossible task to find the words to appropriately sum up Steven Gerrard and his importance to Liverpool,” stated Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "This is an era where the word 'legend' is vastly overused, but in his case it actually doesn't do him justice."
Gerrard’s all-action persona was the perfect match for Liverpool at the time. The relentless will to break into tackles and influence games was a sight that should never be forgotten. Yet, at the same time, there’s a sense of skepticism regarding Gerrard’s growth as a player – the type that will sit with the 34-year-old until he properly reevaluates past decisions when his career concludes.
For Gerrard, winning a league title was rarely a prospect. In terms of goals, he enjoyed his best seasons when Liverpool finished runners up to Manchester United and Manchester City, but it’s a feat that agonizingly eluded the Liverpool skipper. With Chelsea splurging money on the best foreign talent and Sir Alex Ferguson’s pragmatism lifting United to greater heights, Gerrard’s chances were always limited.
More so, the possibility of further growth alongside genuine world class talent wasn’t far-fetched. Gerrard thrived playing in a midfield alongside Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, and often proved decisive behind Fernando Torres. Coincidentally, he also enjoyed one of his finest seasons in a side that included Luis Suarez. Perhaps a move to a superior English side could have elevated Gerrard’s game and status to surreal heights, but his affection for Liverpool football club kept him in Merseyside.
Gerrard’s role to lift Liverpool from sheer mediocrity, however, is now an uphill task. Although, still a reliable set-piece specialist, Gerrard can no longer influence a match with the gusto and tenacity he’s so proudly renowned for. The attempt to prolong his career in a deeper role was successful against inferior Premier League opposition, yet he was often exposed against top no.10’s. Equally, without Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, diligent man-marking has negated Gerrard’s impact from open play, this season.
Fellow countryman Frank Lampard’s move from Chelsea to Major League Soccer may have triggered Gerrard’s interest in a move abroad, but by no means does the Liverpool talisman intend on following in the on-loan Manchester City player’s path. Likewise, further role adaptation to fit Gerrard into a side that currently looks unable of securing Champions League football wouldn’t benefit either party.
“I’m going to carry on playing and although I can’t confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won’t be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool – that is something I could never contemplate,” Gerrard stated.
One of the most difficult decisions a top class professional athlete is forced to make during his career lies in when to step aside from the game. Gerrard’s decision, though, comes at the right time. In what was arguably the most difficult 10 month period of his career – a terrible World Cup campaign, and poor start to the season subsequent to the slip – the decision to stray away from a bit part role at the club is logical.
The nostalgic temptation to call upon Gerrard in the most difficult moments would occur, thus providing an all-round stagnation for both player and club. Gerrard will join a fine list of players that recently departed, yet have served the club both short term and long term, but his decision to stay with Liverpool over the years – despite interest from Chelsea in 2005 – and perseverance to do the impossible seats him in a special place within our hearts.
The inspiration that at times turned skeptics into believers will be truly cherished in North America, a continent that is vastly building a genuine soccer culture, as they will be able to appreciate a talent that is truly adored – although sometimes scorned – throughout England. It equally presents Gerrard with an opportunity to temporarily put aside past demons, and seek a new challenge that is surely attainable.
Gerrard’s decision has shocked football fans worldwide, but it comes at the right time. Liverpool may lose a cult hero, but it puts an end to the final present chapter of dwelling upon past achievements, with hopes of new beginnings. A fresh start for Rodgers, and his young crop of talented, rising stars, to blossom and create their own Anfield legacy.
Liverpool will always remain in Gerrard’s heart, and vice-versa, as his uncanny knack of rising to the most daunting occasions is timeless. Ultimately, all good things come to an end, but for Gerrard, MLS presents an opportunity to prolong the career of a genuine warlike conductor.
More about Gerrard, Steven gerrard, Liverpool, England, Mls
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