After a career spent as the redoubtable captain of England, gamely fulfilling the role of Manchester United's talismanic leader, whilst toiling away in the formidable shadow cast by Liverpool Football Club, Bryan Robson finished his 14 years at Old Trafford with two successive top flight titles, the first two of the Premier League era. Robson was a player of class and heart but his best years were spent with only the consolation of an FA Cup or three as he watched the Liverbird-donning serial Champions of England march to domestic and European supremacy with stunning consistency.
If you're of a certain age, it's impossible to ignore the parallels between Robson and Liverpool's own iconic leader, Steven Gerrard. As the greatest player of his generation, Gerrard has carried the hopes and aspirations of all Reds and it has, at times, been a heavy burden. Like Robson in the Eighties, the Huyton man has cast many a rueful and envious glance at his North West neighbours and pined for a little taste of their celebratory champagne. The United legend was fortunate that he evaded the ignominy of never having won the title whilst at one of England's two biggest clubs. Now, as the magnificence of Liverpool's current campaign continues apace, will Steven Gerrard be able to secure a similar reward?
If you're not picturing Gerrard hoisting aloft that beautifully ugly Premier League trophy on at least a couple of occasions a day then you have most probably gone into some form of catatonic stasis and should blink rapidly now to attract help. It's simply unavoidable, you see. The days of cautious talk around securing Champions League football have long since passed, as Brendan Rodgers' team have earned the right to be, as the man himself might have it, "in the conversation." Truth be told, they are dominating said parley of late with an eloquent garrulousness not unlike that of their Northern Irish manager.
No matter what transpires, we're all in. For good or bad, belief has planted its studs in the turf, and even those of us who have been schooled in the multifarious disappointments and hardships that life regularly serves up, have begun to realise that the dream itself is a pulchritudinous thing. Just allowing the hope to live within us is a recherché delight. Why not allow the the joy to seep into your jaundiced and embittered soul? The smugness of never having committed is but a shallow and trifling consolation when compared with the genuine pleasure to be derived from really living this blithesome present. Forget '08/'09, Liverpool have not been in as well placed to finish top since the last time they won the title by nine points in 1990.
If that prepossessing prospect is to become a manifest reality, then Daniel Sturridge will have a vital role to play in it. The technically adroit striker, who will not turn 25 until September, has plundered a remarkable 23 goals in 28 appearances for the Redmen this season. Rumour has it that the club are soon to offer Sturridge a new contract at double the £70,000 per week he currently trousers, thus acknowledging the centrality of the Midlands native to Brendan Rodgers' plans. Having continued the form to which Liverpool owed their winning start to the season, the deadly forward is not short on motivation, with the ultimate domestic prize within the club's grasp.
However, like his colleagues, Sturridge has a little extra incentive to be part of the first Liverpool title win in 24 years -- Steven Gerrard. The current Liverpool squad, whose togetherness and mental strength is so apparent, have watched in quiet awe and satisfaction as their captain has driven them towards the brink of real success, raising his own game in the process and inspiring those around him all-the-while. He's really nailed this leadership thing, has Gerrard, and Sturridge knows how apt and just it would be for the Reds legend to finally tick the last box on his list of club football honours.
"There’s no-one more appropriate than Stevie to lift the trophy, not a chance," insists his colleague for England's Roy Hodgson World Cup Adventure. "If we win it, Stevie will really deserve it. He should win the Premier League because of everything he has done for this club. Every player in this team will do their best to help him achieve that goal.
"He’s just unbelievable every day, a great leader. He lives and dies for this club. He’s been here his whole career and it’s just a great pleasure to be able to play with him. He is the perfect example for every young player around the country, in fact a real example for every player. He’s been so loyal to Liverpool. He has been world class, and still is world class. Stevie will always be a legend not just for Liverpool, but to England as well. He will definitely go down in history as one of the best midfielders in the game, never mind just this club."
Thirty odd years ago, when your scribbler was a child, Liverpool were the finest team on the continent and our world seemed to be permanently under threat of nuclear holocaust, my beloved Redmen's constant victories were as balm to my prematurely troubled mind. I was a worrier, what can I tell you? Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, who traded off his film star past and an air of amiable vacuity, famously ran a campaign around a slogan taken from a Forties movie he starred in. "Win one for the Gipper," was the Republican legend's cry to the electorate.
Daniel Sturridge, it would seem, is exhorting his teammates to join him in an attempt to win one for the skipper. It's a noble sentiment, despite the unfortunate resonance it has in this writer's addled brain. With the exceptions of some fiercely blue pockets of Merseyside and the red section of Mancunia, there could surely be no more universally approved sight than a colossus of the modern game finally reaching the summit after a career spent earnestly striving to get there.