As small children ran around him in circles kicking miniature footballs, Steven Gerrard cut a morose figure on the pitch during Liverpool's end of season celebrations. The lap of honour is meant to be a celebration with the club's fans, but while the captain dutifully fulfilled this obligation, it was clear his heart wasn't quite in it.
Perhaps anticipating that regardless of the result he'd be in a compromised emotional state, Gerrard left his own daughters at home and obviously took some time to think about what he'd say to the press in the likely event that Liverpool would finish second after all was said and done. He shared some thoughts with SkySports correspondent and occasional sadist Jamie Carragher, but the similar answers he shared with the club's own media took things one gut-wrenching step further.
"Devastation," was the word Gerrard used to describe his club's second place finish. "To come so close and fall away so late is difficult to take, but on the other hand I'm so proud of the lads. We achieved what we set out to achieve [Champions League qualification] weeks and weeks ago, but it's mixed emotions at the moment because it hurts so much falling away and then not delivering the title for the supporters.
"I'm running out of words to describe the fans here at the club; it just gets bigger and bigger and better and better every season I've been here. I'd have loved nothing better than to have delivered it."
It wouldn’t be overstating things to say the captain has a special relationship with the Liverpool fan base, and as much as it might be disappointing to him on a personal level to once again come so close to the one title he craves the most, he does seem quite legitimately upset for what it means for the fans. The great tragedy is, of course, that as fans we'll have the rest of our lives to win the title — although hopefully it won't take that long — while Gerrard only has a few more years left to win his.
"It took me until I'm thirty three to get this proper experience of a title race," Gerrard said of his club's improbable race to the top this year. "What this is going to do for this young squad, it's going to take them to the title. Whether it's next year or the year after, it'll happen pretty soon because the talent in the squad's there.
"I thought my days of title races were gone, I have to honestly admit that I thought they were gone. But having played with this group of players this year, it's back - the dream is back. Although I've only got a couple of years left maybe, I still believe I can get there. I never give up a fight; I never thought I'd be able to say that I'm really confident and I believe that the title is not too far away here."
Bold words from a the captain on a very emotional day. Liverpool ended their season on a positive note with an incredible wealth of things to look forward to next season, and once the hurt diminishes to a dull ache in the captain's side, he'll be ready to lead his team out next season as one of the early contenders for the 2014/15 title.
- Liverpool 2, Newcastle 1: Ending on a High Note
- Liverpool 2, Newcastle 1: First Thoughts
- Rodgers Outlines Vision for Summer As Reports Again Link Lallana to Liverpool Move
- Jordan Henderson Reportedly Set for New Deal Ahead of Return to Liverpool Squad
- Barcelona Eye Four Liverpool Players, Including Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez