Being a young lad, it’s hard to remember even the end of what were the best years at Anfield. Sure, I remember Robbie Fowler and the spice boys, as well as Michael Owen’s debut with his boyish charms. But it has been Steven Gerrard that best represents everything it is to be a Liverpool fan to my generation.
Steven Gerrard is an enigma of a footballer. He failed to make it to Lilleshall academy with the likes of Jamie Carragher and other young talented Liverpool players. He had resorted to taking trials with bitter rivals Manchester United in order to force a youth contract at Liverpool and his break through into the senior squad was met with a few shaky performances.
Stevie started his career as a typical British defensive midfielder who enjoyed a last-ditch tackle. Many compared him to Roy Keane or Patrick Viera and we looked forward to tasty battles in the middle of the park when they both went to war together.
But all this changed when Rafael Benitez arrived at Liverpool, looking for a squad of players with positional discipline to co-inside with his pressing, organised system. This was never Gerrard’s strength. He wanted to be involved with everything, he wanted to chase the ball down and be at the centre of everything happening on the pitch.
He also loves the Hollywood vision of the game, with long searching passing at any opportunity or lightning bolt strikes at goal. ‘Stevie G’ becomes a hero each time he pulls one of these things off, but, as Arrigo Sacchi would say “He’s a great footballer, but not a great football player”. Leading to Rafa moving him forward to harness his drive and need to get in amongst the goals feeding off the intelligence of Xabi Alonso.
If there was ever a game that epitomised Steven Gerrard as ‘Captain Fantastic’ it was the FA Cup final 2006 in Cardiff. The stage was set, the cameras were rolling and Gerrard was going to take the lead role.
2-0 the script had made Liverpool the underdogs and the drama was set to unroll as Gerrard pulled off a lovely weighted searching ball into the path of Djibril Cisse running into the box, the French striker meeting the ball to volley it home. The second arrived as Gerrard drove himself into the box, Alonso knocking the ball into the box, Gerrard finds himself with acres of space as he arrives from deep takes advantage of the knock down and volley’s home the equaliser.
But even when West Ham ripped up the script by scoring a third, Gerrard refused to give up, rounding off a great performance with his trademark strike from outside the box. The FA Cup final showed all parts of Steven Gerrard’s game – when it all clicks into place and everything works he is magnificent player to watch and support.
The passion and drive that is shown by the local hero, who shares a love for the club and a love for football, is something that helps him connect with Liverpool fans around the world. It is this same drive and passion that often compensates for a lack of intelligent footballing ability, but has driven the team on to some wonderful performances in the past decade, closely representing the passion that these fans also share for the mighty Reds.