Opinion

Steven Gerrard – The Ultimate Hero

EARLY DAYS

Steven Gerrard was born on May 30th, 1980, in Whiston, Merseyside, Liverpool. His passion for football from an early age was evident and he started playing for the local youth team Whiston Juniors. At just nine years of age his destiny was already mapped out as he was spotted by Liverpool scouts and went on to join the Liverpool Academy the same year. There was no other path for Steven Gerrard; he was already on it.

Due to his already outstanding football skills, he attended a school outside of the local area as the facilities were more suitable for him to hone them further. Gerrard worked hard to improve himself constantly and had trials for various clubs at fourteen years of age, but success was not immediate as he didn’t make it in the English schoolboys team.

Having had a trial at Manchester United, Gerrard declared afterwards that he had only done a trial for the club so that Liverpool would feel pressurised to keep him and offer him a contract. Clever lad!

Quickly coming through the ranks even after a serious injury, which resulted in him nearly losing a big toe, and would have ended his footballing dreams. Thankfully, he recovered and went on to sign his first professional contract with Liverpool FC in November 1997; going on to make his senior debut in 1998.

His natural position was as a central midfielder but occasionally he played on the right wing. This really affected his confidence on the pitch as he felt completely out of position which cut short the playing time he received as a result.

Gerrard said: “I was out of position and completely out of my depth.”

The club however, now managed by Gerrard Houllier, still believed in his outstanding ability and during the 1999/00 season Gerrard began to play regularly in a central midfield role partnering Jamie Redknapp, and quickly established himself as a star midfielder.

The fans could see his passion and determination as he left everything on the pitch. The admiration and respect from them was growing rapidly and Stevie was becoming extremely popular among everyone associated with the club.

During Gerrard’s introduction into the Merseyside derby, he received his first red card after coming on to replace Fowler. Later that season he scored his first senior goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Soon afterwards, however, he suffered numerous injuries, including back and groin issues. Thankfully, he recovered after treatment.

In the 2000/01 season he made fifty appearances for the club, scoring ten goals. Liverpool won the FA cup, Football League Cup, and the UEFA Cup, finished third in the Premier League, and to top off a super season, Stevie won “PFA Young Player of the Year” award as voted by his peers.

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The following season, Stevie played a huge role in the club winning the FA Charity Shield and UEFA Super Cup. Gerrard Houllier could see not only the talent Stevie possessed, but he recognized his leadership qualities early-on and in 2003 Gerrard took over from Sami Hyypiä as club captain at the age of just 23. This turned out to be a fantastic decision as Stevie took his game to a whole new level and acquired the name “Captain Fantastic”and also became famous for wearing the number ‘8 shirt.

His hero status was now stamped firmly into the Anfield turf, and the fans idolised him. They appreciated his tenacity and will to win, and the unquestionable love he had for Liverpool FC.

Gerrard decided to sign a new contract with LFC, keeping him at the club for another four years, much to the delight of all the fans. Their hero was staying put and was now classed as one of the best midfielders in the world.

After the 2003/04 season, Liverpool came away trophy-less and Gerard Houllier parted ways with Liverpool as a result.

Gerrard admitted that he was not happy with the progress the club was making, and for the first time in his career he had thought about leaving.

Thankfully, he turned down a £20 million move to Chelsea and remained at Liverpool, to the relief of Reds everywhere.

Rafa Benitez was appointed as the new manager, and the fans were excited with the new appointment at LFC.

The ‘04/05 season saw Liverpool plagued with injuries. Stevie’s injury side-lined him from September until late November – clearly not news that the new manager, nor any of the fans, were thrilled about.

Upon his return, Gerrard scored in a Champions League game to help Liverpool progress into the knock-out stages. He described this moment, against Olympiacos, as one of his most important goals to date.

Meanwhile, the team were also progressing steadily through the League Cup where they went on to reach the final, unfortunately failing to bring home the Cup after losing to 3-2 to Chelsea with Gerrard scoring an own goal.

I’m sure we can all imagine how devastated Stevie was afterwards. All he ever wanted was for his beloved club to be successful and win silverware. He would have cut-off his right arm for this accomplishment, that’s how much he loved the club, and that’s what made him so special to us fans. No interviews needed, all you had to do was watch him play to understand the love and passion he had for his club, and if you asked any fan they would all say the same about him.

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THE 2005 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL

May 2005, the Champions League final – Liverpool vs AC Milan in Istanbul. Yes, Liverpool had reached the final and this was to prove to be a memorable night to say the least!

We had the worst first half imaginable; going in at half-time 3-0 down, and we looked dead and buried. But then the second half began. It was time for Stevie to do his job, rally his troops like never before, and try to get us back into the game!

Gerrard scored the first goal to keep the fight alive. Two minutes later, Smicer added another, and Alonso then scored to bring the game back to 3-3.

Unbelievable!!! The fans nearly lifted the roof off the stadium. Fans at home, like me, were screaming, shouting, hugging, tears flowing, and on the verge of having a heart-attack – all at the same time!

The final whistle blew after extra time and we went to a penalty shootout. Every player and fan’s worst nightmare. But thanks to the fancy leg work by Dudek and his amazing save of Shevchenko’s penalty, Liverpool won 3-2 and we were European Champions once again.

The emotion, the elation, the adrenaline, the excitement, and most of all, the pride – Stevie and the boys had won the biggest accolade in European football. The one that every club, player, manager and fan could ever wish for.

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This was what most teams can only dream of and it was coming back to Liverpool. What an achievement; especially in the manner of our comeback after looking dead and buried at half time.

Our pride for the whole team was overwhelming. Stevie was awarded ‘Man of the Match’ which was more deserved than he will probably ever know. He got the team back into the game, and everyone will remember the passion on his face when trying to get all of the players to play their hearts out just like he was.

No Liverpool fan will ever forget one of the best nights of their lives – when their team staged possible the greatest comeback in footballing history. That famous night in Istanbul will stay with every single one of us forever. The memories will never fade. What a time to be a Liverpool supporter!

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Nearly one million fans turned out in Liverpool for the homecoming parade in St. George’s Hall. Liverpool FC had waited a long time to bring home their fifth European cup. The others were in ‘77,’78,’81,’84,’.

Maradona himself said that even the Brazilian team couldn’t have staged a comeback like that!

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FOLLOWING SEASONS

In the 2005/06 season Liverpool faced a battle for Champions League qualification as even though they had won the competition, it didn’t mean automatic qualification unless you finished in the top four in the Premier League, and Liverpool had finished fifth that season. They had an anxious three-week wait before UEFA finally made a decision and let them compete, but they had to start in the first stage of the qualification round. It was a ludicrous and bizarre situation that the team who had won the competition didn’t automatically qualify. UEFA went on to change the rules since so that this situation would never arise again.

Gerrard then helped Liverpool win the FA Cup and the FA Charity Shield and was awarded ‘Player of the Year’ at the season’s end.

In 2007, Stevie helped Liverpool advance to the final of the Champions League for the second time in three years, but they lost 2-1 on the night to AC Milan. During that season he made his 400th appearance for the club in October and went on to score in all but one of Liverpool’s domestic and European matches during the month of November, and he became the first player since John Aldridge to score in seven consecutive games in all competitions.

During 2008/09, he scored a career-high of 24 goals in all competitions. He bagged numerous individual accolades that season, including PFA Fans’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Liverpool FC Player of the Season. He also got into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year and FIFA FIFPro World XI.

From then on, Liverpool went on a bad run finishing outside the top four in fifth place for four seasons in a row, thus missing out on Champions League football. Expectations for the club were much higher than this and it was a grim few seasons.

Stevie ended the 2009/10 season with 12 goals and nine assists and made 46 appearances for the club.

This was the year that our much respected and loved Rafa Benitez left the club to be replaced by Roy Hodgson, who assured the fans that Stevie was going nowhere. Hodgson’s reign was cut short as he left after a poor run of form.

The fans were calling for King Kenny to be appointed, and in January 2011 he was, at first as caretaker manager, and soon permanently.

Stevie was plagued with injuries in the 2011/12 season and missed a large part of it for that reason. He later said that he had turned down an offer from Bayern Munich as his only focus at the time was to get Liverpool back into the Champions League.

“A traditional club like Liverpool still has a value, that’s the reason why I have stuck around for so long, it is more important to win a couple of trophies and achieve something that is a lot more difficult, than to go the easy road and move to a club where it becomes easier”, he said.

Gerrard finally recovered and went on to help the club reach their first cup final in six years. Liverpool beat Manchester City in the semifinal of the 2012 League Cup and faced Cardiff City, eventually beating the Welsh team 3-2 on penalties under the guidance of Sir Kenny Dalglish.

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Sir Kenny left his post in May 2012 and Brendan Rogers took the reigns just two weeks later. On the 18th of August Stevie played his 250th game as captain.

Gerrard signed a contract extension in July 2013, and in August he scored arguably his most celebrated goal against Olympiacos at Anfield in his charity fund-raising testimonial match. Liverpool went on to win 2-0 in a special game where past players such as Robbie Fowler and Jamie Carragher made appearances. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital received £500,000 from the proceeds, and the players still to this day go there every year at Christmas to visit the children.

Stevie’s achievements just kept on coming when he became Liverpool’s longest-serving captain, spreading over ten years and sharing the record with only one other player, Alex Raisbeck, in the club’s rich history. Stevie also scored his 100th Premier League goal in October of the same year when he converted a penalty in a match against Newcastle United.

The following season of 2013/14 Liverpool had their best chance of winning the league title since 1990. They topped the table with three matches to go but then lost to Chelsea and their title charge was no longer in their hands. The Reds finished runners-up to Manchester City that season under Brendan Rodgers. Everyone thought it was finally going to be our year, but it was not to be. Gerrard was devastated; it had been one of his biggest aspirations as a player to win the Premier League.

He later described this time as the worst three months of his life.

Ruling out retirement, in the 2014/15 season he said he would go elsewhere if Liverpool didn’t offer him another contract. He felt he wasn’t ready to stop playing yet and in January 2015, the Captain announced he would be leaving his beloved club at the end of the season, having scored 186 goals for us.

It was a decision that nearly broke him. He was absolutely devastated to be leaving as the club never offered him another contract, so he went on to sign for LA Galaxy in America on an 18-month contract.

LAST GOODBYE

The last ever match that Stevie played for Liverpool at Anfield was on the May 6th, 2015, against Crystal Palace. This was Stevie’s 709th game for the club. They lost the game, but nobody cared as this day was all about paying homage to one of the most valued players ever to set foot at Anfield.

After the game ended Stevie walked through a guard of honour of his teammates and opponents alike, accompanied by his his three beautiful daughters.

He said:

I loved it so much here, I’ll miss it and I’m devastated to be leaving. The first time I played for Liverpool was an absolute dream of mine. I love my teammates to death. Thank you all for an amazing 17 years. Thank you to everyone at the club but most of all thank you to the supporters , you’re the best fans in the world.”

With the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” ringing around the stadium you could see how emotional Stevie was and how much this club meant to him. It was an unbelievably sad day for him, but also for everyone associated with the club; especially the fans who were going to miss him beyond words. What a hero, a super-talented player, and a fantastic captain we had the pleasure of watching week in, week out, for seventeen years.

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During his time at LA Galaxy, he scored five goals, clocked in 14 assists and made 34 appearances for the MLS side. He helped get the the team to two straight playoffs but LA wasn’t really for him. He found the traveling across the US to play games tough and didn’t think he achieved what he wanted to whilst he was there.

He announced his retirement from professional football on the 24th of November 2016, aged 36.

MANAGERIAL CAREER

Stevie then moved back to England and remained very much on the sidelines, taking up the job as Youth Coach for LFC Under 18’s in 2017, as well as managing the Under 19’s in the UEFA youth league.

He was then offered the job as manager of Rangers FC, one of Scotland’s biggest clubs, and in May ‘18 Steven Gerrard was appointed the role, and made his managerial debut in July. His team went unbeaten for twelve matches in all competitions. Not a bad start to to his new career! Rangers are currently sitting 6th in the Scottish PL with only two defeats so far this season.

Gerrard did say that being a manger was a challenge and one that he looked forward to. He has spent a lot of time on the phone with Jürgen Klopp, asking for advice. He initially found the transition from player to manager difficult, especially when it came to explaining why players are to be dropped. He said it’s all trial and error and you first have to write everything on paper, and then try to transfer it onto the pitch.

Klopp told him that he didn’t need to be a genius but he must have a genuine interest in the job at hand. Gerrard went on to praise Klopp, saying his advice is like gold dust to him as he has a lot to learn.

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INTERNATIONAL CAREER

After featuring for the England under 21’s in ‘99, he went on to make his senior debut shortly after in ‘00, which so happened to be the Euro 2000 tournament.

Stevie then went on to suffer various injuries at different stages and, as a result, missed out on playing for England in the 2002 World Cup. However, becoming a regular in the team was inevitable due to his incredible talent but also his versatility and ability to perform in a variety of positions; including CM, AM, RB, and also as a right winger when called upon.

He played a huge role in helping his team reach the quarter finals of Euro ‘04 and Euro ‘06. Stevie went on to impress in every game with his incredible talent which caught the eye of the whole world.

In 2009, both Pele and Zinedine Zidane hailed him as the best player in the world

Gerrard was rewarded with the English captaincy during the World Cup qualifying stages in 2010, which was deserved due to his hard work and undeniable commitment to his country. England reached the last 16 but were then knocked out of the competition. England again advanced to the quarter finals of Euro ‘12 but failed to progress.

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In 2014 England came through qualification and again reached the World Cup with the help of their star player, but were eliminated from the competition after just two games. Gerrard then made the decision to hang up his International boots shortly after the tournament.

But what an impressive international career it had been and one to be very proud of.

Steven Gerrard came away having made 114 appearances for his country, scoring 21 goals, and captaining the team 40 times, making him the fourth most capped player in English footballing history.

HONOURS

Steven won: two FA Cups,  three League cups, one UEFA cup, one UEFA super cup, UEFA club footballer of the year 2007 , he was selected in the UEFA ultimate team of the year in 2015.  UEFA Champions League cup, FA Charity shield 2006, UEFA club footballer of the year 2005, PFA Players player of the year 2005, PFA young player of the year 2000/2001,  PFA Fans player of the year, twice, PFA merit award 2015, FWA tribute award 2013, FWA footballer of the year 2008/2009, IFFHS Worlds most popular footballer 2006, FA England player of the year 2007 and 2012,  Liverpool FC player of the season four times, FIFA club World Cup silver ball 2005, UEFA team of the year three times, UEFA ultimate team of the year, UEFA team of the century, UEFA European Championship team of the tournament 2012, UEFA Champions League man of the match 2005, Premier League season awards-20 times. Premier league team of the year- eight times.

Inductee in the English football Hall of Fame 2017

Member of the British Order (MBE) 2007

FAMILY LIFE

Steven married his childhood sweetheart Alex Curran in June 2007. Alex had turned him down on his first attempt to ask her out on a date as he had gotten his friend to ask her, which didn’t impress her at all. But on his own second attempt it worked, and the couple have been together ever since. The couple went on to have four children; Lilly-Ella, Lexie, Lourdes, and a little boy, Lio – a possible football star in the making!

SUMMING UP

Wow! Where do I begin?

After Steven left Liverpool, fans believed that he was irreplaceable and, to this day, I feel that the opinion still remains. Stevie’s love for the club was bred from a young boy, and as he grew up, his dreams for one day playing for Liverpool became the ultimate ambition.

He went from a supporter, to a player, and finally to a manager which, I’m sure, has surpassed any of his expectations, but this didn’t happen by accident as he spent his whole playing career giving everything he had to be successful. The fans could feel his passion and love for Liverpool football club every time he played, he gave it his all and no one could have asked any more from him.

He was a hero to us, ‘the Ultimate hero’. He was a super captain for the team, and fully earned his ‘Captain fantastic’ moniker. The fans absolutely adored him and still do, and in all my time as a Liverpool supporter I have never heard a negative word spoken about Stevie. Only complete love and respect for him.

We felt so honoured for him to have graced our club for much of his long career, and he in return felt honoured to have played for his boyhood dream club and to have had such a lucrative career. We ended up with one of the best players in the world for seventeen years and he played his heart and soul out every game.

His role as captain was perfectly suited for him, he possessed every trait that a great captain should have. Every single teammate had the utmost respect for him and we as fans felt no differently. Even now, Stevie is one of the biggest Reds you will find and still kicks every ball with them every time we play.

We are one lucky football club to have had Steven Gerrard, and to have had the pleasure to watch him perform week-in, week-out, giving his all. His inspirational performances were achieved because of his hard-work and determination to be the best, and everyone appreciated that.

After his final game at Anfield, Stevie thanked everybody at the club. He said he loved his teammates to death, but most of all he thanked the supporters, saying that we were the best fans in the world and he was really going to miss it.

There will never be another Steven Gerrard!

We thank you Stevie for all that you have done for Liverpool football club during your career and all of your dedication and respect for everybody associated with the club. You are an absolute legend and the ‘Ultimate hero’ to fans of all ages. We wish you nothing but success with your new role as manager and we hope that someday you return to manage your beloved club, Liverpool FC.  YNWA!

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