By Sam Skinner
“When Stevie G kisses the badge, you know he means it.”
Captain Fantastic. Mr. Liverpool. Stevie G. Liverpool’s #8. Scouser.
No matter what you call him, he will always be remembered as an integral character in the story of English football.
What was it about Steven Gerrard that made him so special?
In many ways, Gerrard resembled a chameleon on the football pitch, a versatile footballer who could do it all. Gerrard was a complete player who was equally comfortable in front of goal as he was as a sweeper in front of his defense. A player with a flair for the dramatic, Gerrard’s “Hollywood balls” frequently blasted across the pitch, always stretching the imagination. His sensational long-range strikes were feared throughout England. Goalkeepers may still have nightmares about the distinct THUNK when the ball exploded on a volley off of his cannon of a right foot. Gerrard had a special way of making the near-impossible look routine.
In other ways, Gerrard played like a freight train steamrolling 100 miles an hour. Gerrard was known for his tireless energy in the center of the park, oftentimes contributing to breaking up an opponent’s attack followed by willing his team forward on the break. Often labeled the engine room and spiritual soul of his squad, he was a player who always seemed to leave everything on the field. Gerrard’s wild, dramatic slide tackles epitomized his style of play. His passion for the beautiful game was displayed in his goal celebrations, when Gerrard would emotionally sprint across the touchline in youthful exuberance with a wide smile and his teammates frantically racing by his side.
His record speaks for itself. 500 caps in 17 season with Liverpool. A record eight appearances in the Premier League Team of the Year. The only player ever to score in a League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, and Champions League final. One of six footballers to win 100 caps for the English national team. The only player ever to score in a League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, and Champions League final.
To truly understand Gerrard’s legacy as a footballer, one must look beyond his performance with the ball at his foot. Steven Gerrard is a “scouser”.
Both and raised in the county of Merseyside, as a boy, Gerrard would attend Liverpool matches with his family and friends, dreaming of a day when he might have the chance to don the famed Red shirt in front his neighbors and relatives, the passionate “Kop” fans. He is the last of a dying breed of footballers, the “one-club men” of a bygone era who lead their hometown teams to glory without ever leaving their cities behind.
“Scousers” loved him not only because of his gifts as a footballer. They loved him because he was one of their own.
The story of the city of Liverpool and its love affair with its football team is somewhat of a Greek tragedy: a city that has experienced incredible successes, only to plummet towards new depths.
Today, Liverpool, a blue-collar port city in Northwest England, is mocked for its high unemployment and a staggering economy. But back then, Liverpool was revered for being great. As Bromberger details in Football as world-view and as ritual, “…often those towns – Liverpool, Marseilles, Naples – which have fallen on bad times, that in their nostalgic yearning for past glories, are most passionate about the clubs that represent them, as if the team’s exploits will dress and heal their current wounds.”
Liverpool FC’s history runs parallel with that of its home. The most successful English side ever, the club has earned more domestic and international titles than any other English club. At the height of their success, in the 1970s, a trophyless season was considered unacceptable.
However, the club’s sterling history has been tattered and tarnished since its summit of its success. The club has failed to capture the English championship in over 25 years. Off the pitch, the club was involved in two of the worst sporting catastrophes ever: the Heysel and Hillsborough Disasters. Further evidence of Gerrard’s unbreakable bond to the club? His cousin, Jon Paul Gilhooley, was one of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989.
The character arch of Steven Gerrard follows a remarkably similar heroic path to his home. A narrative portrayed, in the words of Galeano, as “soccer in sun and shadow”.
As the the heart and soul of the club, his club, Gerrard captained Liverpool and England to astonishing successes. The injury time firecracker in front of the Kop that pushed Liverpool onto the next round in the Champions League. The thunderous volley created by Gerrard (his first international goal) that propelled England to a historic 5-1 victory over Germany. His remarkable two goal, one assist performance in the 2006 FA Cup Final, a game now affectionately known as “The Gerrard Final”. His leadership in spurring Liverpool to the unprecedented comeback in the 2005 Champions League Final against Italian giants AC Milan.
However, from Gerrard’s immortality he has plummeted back to Earth in his moments of despair. His costly own goal in the waning moments of the League Cup Final against Chelsea. Captaining the England national team to its worst World Cup performance ever. His dismissal after only 38 seconds in his final game against Manchester United. The infamous “slip” that ended Liverpool’s title hopes in 2014 that prevented him from closing his Liverpool career with a fairytale ending.
What no one can deny?
Gerrard is one of the English football’s true greats, a ferocious player that was always a force to be reckoned with, no matter his position on the pitch.
Gerrard climbed to the summit of Liverpool lore, joining the pantheon of Liverpool legends which include the likes of Dalglish, Rush, and Barnes.
A Merseyside boy who lived out his childhood dreams to be adored, loved, and deified by his people as a hero for his performance, loyalty, and passion for his city and team.
“When Stevie G kisses the badge, you know he means it.”
“Steven Gerrard.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. Accessed February 19th, 2016. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Steven-Gerrard
“Steven Gerrard | Liverpool FC 1998-2015.” Liverpool Football Club. Accessed February 18th, 2016. http://gerrard.liverpoolfc.com/
“Liverpool career stats for Steven Gerrard.” LFChistory.net. Accessed February 19th, 2016. http://www.lfchistory.net/players/player/profile/305