What with all the heady talk of dreams and destinies, it can be hard to keep a level head these days, especially when feckless and irresponsible hacks write florid, emotionally exploitative prose, deliberately stoking the fires of latent ambition which had smouldered deep within glory-deprived supporters. Such cynically evocative scribbles serve only to encourage a surfeit of positivity and partisan passion in our sorely charged hearts, and the manipulative scribes of such irresponsible...wait, I can't do this...what follows is going to be another such piece from me. I don't even know myself anymore, gentle reader. A victim of my own uncharacteristic ebullience, I'd be afraid if I wasn't already overwrought to the point of expiry with the most debilitating nervous tension ahead of Liverpool's visit to Signor Allardici's lot on Sunday.
Over the years, it has been a source of much consternation in polite company when your scribbler has pointed out that Steven Gerrard, whilst possibly the most inspirational player on the planet on his day, was not necessarily a great captain. This was the hero of Istanbul, the central protagonist in the Gerrard Final of 2006. What kind of heresy was it to suggest he was not the perfect man to lead the side? The theory, however, was based on the Huyton man's on-pitch demeanour, comparative quietness and the fact that, ironically, his influence was so great. If Gerrard was having a bad day, he didn't just get on with cajoling and organising like a workaday captain. Instead, his head went down and those of his teammates followed suit. It was a stultifying paradox -- a natural leader who could demotivate an entire team.
In recent times, however, Steven Gerrard has evolved into the consummate captain. He has a natural gravitas and is no longer plagued on the pitch by the demons of morbid introspection that led him to seem quite solipsistic -- the Stevie-Me, that his critics railed against. This was unfair as it was not narcissism which tormented the midfield icon but self-doubt -- Gerrard has been a notoriously anxious individual, never glorying too long in the positive, always ready to analyse what went wrong or what might go awry.
Perhaps it is the onset of the attendant wisdom of advancing years, perhaps it is the clearly beneficial work he has been doing with Dr. Steve Peters or perhaps Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers simply knew the right things to say to Liverpool's greatest player of recent times -- whatever the reasons, Gerrard now runs games by force of his personality as much as by the dynamic example he has always provided. His is the voice in the ear of referee and teammate alike. What has been truly wonderful of late is that his own form in a new deep-lying role has been simply sublime.
Many, based on the evidence of the past, doubted the England captain's suitability for this new role but with Jordan Henderson and one of Joe Allen or Philippe Coutinho ahead of him, Gerrard has excelled. He is no longer a box-to-box dynamo and he appears to have finally accepted that. Instead, he effectively splits the centre halves, provides an always-available out-ball, screens across his defensive lines with a delightful brio and gets on with the vital business of winning aerial duels, making vital blocks and tidily linking the play.
Of course, there is much more to this colossus of the modern game. The raking pin-point passes, the rasping goal attempts, the inspiringly calm penalty conversions, the technically adroit set piece deliveries and the deft flicks in the opposition penalty area all remain. We have a ridiculously talented player donning the number eight for Liverpool and he is imbued, just now, with the kind of maniacal drive that can only come from a career spent in search of the holy grail. Steven Gerrard wants this title. He wants it in the kind of way that the city itself yearns for it; in the way that genuine, passionate fans crave it. He knows it's possible, in a fashion that it has never been in his career to date. Since his debut, back in 1998, Liverpool have never been in the box-seat at this point, with their fate in their own hands. Ever. No wonder the captain has allowed himself an occasional reverie. So Stevie, have you pictured yourself lifting the Premier League trophy?
"I think I'd be a liar if I said no," the cub legend admitted. "It is flashing in and out of my mind from time to time, but I am trying to get it out as quick as it is going in because nothing has been achieved yet. It is important for myself and the players to try to not forget about the dream but try to park it up, as dreams only happen when you get the job done and there are six hard matches still to play.
"Nothing changes, we don't worry about Manchester City, Chelsea, Palace, Norwich or Newcastle - we worry about beating West Ham. We approach it how we've approached the last eight games. We have an unbelievable mentality, winning attitude, and we always know if we work hard for each other and do the ugly bits which players don't like doing all the time, we know the nice stuff will come out.
"We have been playing at a pace which is difficult for opposition teams to cope with, but it all starts with sticking together. It is the manager's way. Everyone has taken it on board and put it into practice. "I remember us finishing the last six months of last season very consistently and we took that into this year. We had a good pre-season and from day one the form has been consistent, but of late we've taken it to another level. The run we are on is superb and it is a credit to everyone in the squad."
It's remarkable. Gerrard even strikes the perfect note these days with his carefully judged words to the media. Clearly, all of us, yearning husks of rapacious humanity that we are, are desirous to see the title return to Anfield for the first time since 1990, when the veteran was but a prodigiously talented ten year old. None amongst us, however, us will have a hunger equivalent to the captain's. Steven Gerrard's career at Liverpool Football Club has been defined by timely heroics and the hour may be coming for the most opportune display yet of the man's indomitable spirit.