"Steven Gerrard Is Our Captain"
Steven Gerrard is our Captain
Steven Gerrard is a red
Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool
A scouser born and bred...
As myself and the other travelling Liverpool fans sang this ditty in admiration of our captain on Saturday afternoon, he turned around and applauded as he strolled in direction of the tunnel, head held high, chest puffed out and leading his men from the battlefield triumphant.
Before the game, he gathered his troops on the edge of the centre circle; a rallying cry from the leader to his obedient soldiers. They huddled together and hung on his every word, before breaking away and pondering the lyrics of the mans battle cry. Steven Gerrard approached Lucas and Mascherano, called them together and gave them another few seconds of inspiration and encouragement; clenching his fists and fuelling the fire within. He took it upon himself to go around each and every player, ensuring they were as fired up for this game as he was.
"Steven Gerrard is our captain". How very apt.
I have been one of his biggest critics over the past few years; not because of his ability as a footballer, as that has never been in doubt, but for his leadership qualities and suitability to the role of captain of Liverpool Football Club. I have not been alone in those thoughts, with many declaring their vision of Jamie Carragher donning the armband being an ideal. Let the vocal leader on the pitch wear that black band around his arm and drive the team when required. We just didn't see those qualities from Gerrard. For me, he just didn't perform and inspire in games where he was needed most. He "went missing" in games when players all around were looking for leadership.
The greatest example of this for me was a the final group game of the 2004/05 European Cup campaign, when Olympiakos came to Anfield. It may seem strange to some for me to highlight this game as an example of a weakness in Gerrard's armour, but watch the game back again and I think you'll agree with me. People will always remember his magnificent strike that won the game, the strike that put us 3-1 up and sent us through to the knockout phase of the competition. It was typical Gerrard; popping up with a wonder strike to drag the side from the brink of failure. But what about the previous 80 minutes or so?
We trailed 1-0 at half time and were never in the game. Our captain was hiding and just didn't look interested. "I don't want to wake up tomorrow morning in the UEFA Cup" he stated before the game, but was doing anything but looking true to his word. I was seething with his performance that night. The lesser players were looking for inspiration and leadership, but it was nowhere to be seen. It took the introduction of two amateurs in Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama Pongolle to change the game that night. Their infectious desire, energy and eagerness turned the game around and dragged us back into it. 0-1 became 1-1. 1-1 became 2-1 and we were back in with a shout. Gerrard suddenly became interested again. The rest is history.
Some may deem that assessment unfair, and accuse me of forgetting all the wonderful moments that man has given to us. Believe me, that assessment could not be further from the truth. But I just didn't see him as captain material. The Chelsea sagas just strengthened that view. This season however, he has turned everything around and has become everything you would want from a captain.
His actions on Saturday, before and during the game, finally confirmed that we have a real leader of men as the captain of our side. There are no more doubts in my mind that he is the real deal, and the one player that everyone else in the squad looks up to. He leads them. He is their General.
He is fast approaching the peak years of his career, and has matured into one of the best players in the world; maybe even the best player in the world if you listen to Zidane; and he is far more qualified to judge than I. The likes of Messi and Ronaldo grab the headlines, but is Steven Gerrard the best player on his planet? He seems to think so, and who am I to argue? He certainly eclipsed the over rated Ronaldo on Saturday afternoon.
I've argued for several years, and wrote a previous article on the issue, that Steven Gerrard is not a central midfielder. We constantly hear from the so called experts that he needs to play in the middle of the park in a 4-4-2 to be seen as his best. "Play him in his best position" they cry. Maybe some of them may eventually begin to realise that he is now playing in his best position if they've watched the games again Real Madrid and Manchester United this week? Playing in the hole with the world class Fernando Torres in front, and the two central midfield players behind, allowing him freedom to roam and create havoc. Playing in central midfield he has the shackles on. Playing behind the front man he is a menace, a constant attacking threat. I think the past week proves that beyond all doubt.
The legend that his Raul ran over and shook his hand as he left the field on Tuesday night. At the end of the game, the entire Real Madrid side stood in the tunnel and applauded him back into the dressing room. If that is not a sign of great respect then what is? Being applauded like that by a Real Madrid side highlights more than anything the regard in which he is held throughout world football; the ultimate honour.
I don't think we appreciate just how good the man is. We can't see the wood for the trees at times, and will only really appreciate how special he is when he's gone.
Not only has he bloomed in his new role and become the world class player he's always promised to be, he's also grown into his role as a leader.
"Steven Gerrard is our captain"
You better believe it!