Sunday, May 24, 2015

Final farewell for Liverpool royal at Britania

The best there is, Steven Gerrard.
Steven Gerrard says a final farewell from the English Premier League tonight at the rather random ground of Britania Stadium against the rather run-of-the-mill team of Stoke City. It might appear as an ordinary place for a farewell, but is it really? For the non-descript ground represents significant value when trying to summarise Gerrard’s career. His greatest achievements have come away from the hallowed turf of Anfield, think Istanbul and Wembley. Some of his finest moments have come when they were least expected, often when everyone thought Liverpool was down and out. While the attention was rightly focussed on Gerrard last weekend during his last home game, tonight presents a match that won’t have such mega focus with Chelsea’s title-winning celebrations and the relegation race to dominate. Tonight the limelight and pressure somewhat comes off Gerrard to perform a match-winning moment. No one’s expecting that, it’s just a chance for him to play a fitting game for his final appearance. But when you’re a player like Steven Gerrard, no game in a Liverpool shirt is just a game.

For this a man who stated his goal as a teenager in life was to play just one game in a red shirt. Almost two decades later and he's about to make his 710th appearance for his lifelong club. A career packed full of magical moments, the ride for Gerrard has been one of spine-tingling memories and coming oh so close, yet oh so far. Described as the ‘most complete footballer of modern time’, Gerrard eclipses just the title of Liverpool’s greatest; he has to be considered amongst the best to ever play the game in England.
While he never won the Ballon D’or, he won the hearts of fans around the world. And that’s no understatement; he is one of the most well-known sporting names globally. Throughout his career he would have had deal after deal thrown at him by the biggest clubs across Europe. The best coach today, Jose Mourinho, tried to sign him three times and three times Gerrard chose to stay a red. He had all the opportunity in the world to leave Liverpool, but he stayed and become a legend of the club. The word loyalty is thrown around like team apparel in a change room in the sporting world, but you can’t assume or fake loyalty. Loyalty is in actions, it is served as much as it is earned. And by god has this man earned it.
Talisman, World class, Legend. The superlatives used to describe the Whiston-born Scouser.
Born locally, raised locally and form a working class background, Gerrard’s un-paralleled passion made him a player that Liverpool built a club around. He was made captain at 23 years of age, taking the club to Champions League glory in 2005, and winning the FA Cup in 2006. He formed lethal combinations with Xabi Alonso, Ferrnando Torres and later Luis Suarez. His presence with fellow Scouser Jamie Carragher in defence was as thick as concrete, rock-solid.
The respect and authority that he held in the dressing room, in a calm manner, was incredible. He has something so great, something that you can’t buy and you can’t teach. An honest-ness about the way he plays and the way he carries himself, summarised by recent comments by Jamie Carragher saying that his exactly the same man who walked in as a boy at 16 years of age. Humble, competitive, and hungry for success. While many say he was always going to be a special player and destined for success, he still had to go out there and do it. And do it he has. And to do it for so long is what sets him apart.
When you try and talk about a player that would be immortal, remembered forever, you too often throw up names. How many players are remembered from 50 years ago? Steven Gerrard will be one of those rare players.  A man who has a cannon in his right foot, who has scored some of the most remarkable goals ever seen. The comebacks, the goals from over thirty out, the corners pin-pointly prescisoned for screaming headers, the defining and pressure-pumping penalty goals, the ferocity that commentators’ would bellow his name through the TV with when he scored a match-winning goal, they’ll be talked about and remembered by those who saw them forever.
Maybe the thing that sets him apart is his self-belief, when no one else could fathom the possible, when it looked impossible, Steven Gerrard would make it possible. Is it his determination? His pure will to win. When they needed someone to stand up and to be counted, to pull an absolute rabbit out of a hat, he was there. He would deliver, when Liverpool needed him to deliver.
You always knew what you were going to get, and that’s effort. Competitive-effort with genuine respect for his jersey, his position in the team, and his position in the game. He knew his was a great, but he plays like he is still trying to earn his spot in the team. If he ever sat a game out on the bench, he would return and set the benchmark for the rest of the league.
Some might say he got so close yet so far on so many occasions. But for all the times he hit the post or crossbar, for the near misses, he always got back up, kept firing. He’d always go again. He never stopped in his pursuit of further glory, right down till his last moments in a Liverpool jersey. And that’s what you’ll see at the Britania stadium tonight, the Steven Gerrard that has always been.

The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.