The Gerrard Question

By the end, Steven was literally playing on one leg - Gareth Copley

Despite his own indifferent form alongside the lacklustre Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard has captained Liverpool to within two points of the apparently awesome league leaders, Arsenal. That's a LOT of alliteration. I need to lie down. So does Stevie.

The main thrust of any piece of writing can get lost rather quickly as different sets of subjective eyes and agendas get to work on it. With that in mind, let me be crystalline in my clarity here -- Steven Gerard is a wonderful, one-off footballer. Steven Gerrard is probably in a two-way battle with Kenny Dalglish for the title of Greatest Liverpool Player In The History Of Ever. Steven Gerrard has been amongst the world's best in his time. However, Steven Gerrard can no longer be part of a central midfield pairing with the current incarnation of Lucas Leiva. I may have lost some of you at the end, I fear. For those not swivel-eyed with rage, frothing at the mouth and smashing keyboards, let me explain.

Football renders most of us helpless slaves to our emotions. I've personally always been inclined towards fan-boy behaviour. I'm all-in, you see -- no half-measures. An easily beguiled and dewy-eyed fool when it comes to Liverpool Football Club, I've formed attachments quickly and I never learned that my heart will probably be torn out and tramped under a pair of garish Gucci loafers before then being reversed across by the vulgar, glinting low-profile wheels of a Baby Bentley. Steven Gerrard, however, was the player who precipitated a change in this callow perspective. He's the first truly great Liverpool player that I respect more than I love.

Since the turn of the millennium, Gerrard has been Mr. Liverpool for most observers. The most inspirational of footballers, his unique talent has been his capacity to muster moments of greatness, usually goals, through a combination of raw physicality and singular ability. There is probably no other British footballer with a video-reel as impressive as Gerrard's. His gifts are boundless -- the raking long-range pass, the incisive through-ball, the last-ditch sliding tackle and of course, the spectacular shooting. The man is a marvel. It's as simple as that.

It's probably mostly an age thing, but whilst the likes of Robbie Fowler, Sami Hyppia, Xabi Alonso and Jari Litmanen were busy eliciting foolish amounts of man-love from a guy old enough to be more cynical, I never fully bought into the cult of Gerrard. I loved to watch him and still invariably do. I knew that he was often our only hope and I think that perhaps I resented that.

Certainly, as his shoulders would drop or his attitude visibly changed in a match, I often found it hard to bite my tongue. I could never see the same guy that the others on the terrace around me saw. I felt like a crank, a bit of an alien, really. Could nobody else see that that Hollywood ball was a bad idea? Did nobody else notice the Gerrard-shaped hole in our defensive structure? Wasn't anyone listening when that most astute of judges, Rafa Benitez, said that Gerrard would extend his career well into his thirties by playing as a forward?

The flirtation with Chelsea was not helpful but it honestly made little impact on my feelings. For this scribbler, there has simply always been too much focus on one player. The media love Gerrard and rightly so. With the exception of a few minor scrapes that most of us have been foolish enough to experience in our own lives, he's been the archetypal model-pro with an outlandish talent to compliment a clean-cut image and an England captain's armband.

I'm a fan of Liverpool Football Club first and foremost, however, and it rankled to have our great club dismissed as a one-man team. This was not Gerrard's fault, you understand, and all-too-often the cliché was sadly true, but whereas it enhanced his hero-status for some, for me, a lucky child of the seventies and Eighties, it was a bone of contention. I preferred Carragher's attitude. I cringed as he deferred so reverentially to the captain. For me, Carragher was Mr. Liverpool. But I can feel the ire rising amongst some of you, so let me be clear again. I've never whinged about Gerrard, as some have and I would never dream of diminishing his status as a legendary Redman by perpetuating that lazy 'Stevie-me' trope. If anything, I would buy a ticket to the Stevie-show every week. I just wouldn't always enjoy the fare.

As the years have passed and Gerrard's explosiveness has been reduced by age and injury, the club has been in turmoil. Since Benitez left and that comparative golden era became like some kind of strangely recent and realistic myth, the captain has operated where the captain wants to operate, with the blessing of Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers. Gerrard has never made any bones about his preference for the most central of rolls and every media outlet in the known universe has backed his opinion to the hilt. Benitez was ridiculed for 'reducing' the England man to the role of a right-sided attacker and yet the move yielded a haul of goals any top striker would envy and a raft of assists that any play-maker would be proud to call their own. Food for thought, surely?

At any rate, debate as to the continued role of the captain is virtually redundant, as Brendan Rodgers seems to be not only convinced of his suitability and necessity in that position, but also that it would be wrong for Gerrard to ever miss a single moment of a game...ever. It is the fear of such superfluousness that has kept me from engaging in any argument about why, with his utterly unique skill-set and ability to take chances, I would dearly love to see our number eight as a right sided attacker or behind Daniel Sturridge. Such musings are pointless.

For as long as that continues to be the case, voices like mine, calling for a more advanced role for our captain, are as but fragile pleasure craft before a tsunami. I've walked away from more Gerrard debates than I've engaged in. The guy is a magnificent player and people seem to be too polarised in their opinions of him. My particular views have brought the crazy out in both sides and when faced with the delightful combo of ignorance and zealotry, discretion is always the better part of valour. I respect Gerrard and myself far too much. He's the best we've had in decades. I wish we could see that on the pitch. I wish Brendan Rodgers would save Steven Gerrard from himself

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