What now for Steven Gerrard? A footballer accustomed to Herculean tasks, who has written his own story by virtue of talent and will is facing the end of his tale at Liverpool Football Club. When heroes face the end of their days, do they wonder what songs will be sung and what feats will be told? They must for t is their legacy; it is what they leave for others to remember as they fade away.
The "Ste Gerrard, Gerrard" chant proudly bellowed by Liverpool fans has been used by rival fans to mock him after his erroneous control and subsequent slip against Chelsea late last season. The nickname "Stevie G" morphed into "Slippy G" and after the events at Old Trafford, "Stampy G" has become another ridiculing description for one of Liverpool's and the Premier League's greatest talents.
The Slip was an accident, a by-product of desperately trying to atone for poorly controlling a pass from Mamadou Sakho near the halfway line that set Demba Ba on his way to score the first goal at the stroke of half-time. Liverpool's eleven-game winning run would be over by the end of the game. Liverpool still had another half to find a goal, but that goal was decisive when a draw would have been enough to remain in control of the title race with two games to go.
The Stamp was a deliberate act of stupidity from an experienced player Brendan Rodgers turned to when his team needed some inspiration. No longer a starter, Steven Gerrard could still assist Liverpool in difficult games as he managed to do earlier in the week at the Liberty Stadium. He lasted merely 38 seconds and left his side with one of the most unenviable scenarios in football: a goal down with ten men. Like the game against Chelsea, Liverpool had a half to find an answer but would succumb to goals in each half from the visiting side. Another run had come to an end.
Everton are local rivals, but Chelsea and Manchester United have been ferocious enemies in Gerrard's time at the club. His failings on both occasions at Anfield have been mercilessly and expectedly seized upon. It wasn't supposed to be this way. There is tragedy, through the capricious nature of chaos and the misjudgements of a man whose powers have all but whittled away. Herakles was arguably the greatest of Greek heroes who displayed daring, courage, unparalleled physical force, and inspiration. His labours and adventures were legendary, yet his demise was telling.
Herakles eventually met a tragic end through the machinations of a centaur called Nessus, but as the body of the hero burned in a funeral pyre, his immortal side remained. Steven Gerrard is a walking legend, one of Liverpool's immortals whose remaining physical gifts eroded during the close of last season. However, the events that accompanied such a deterioration have resulted in a muddier, more frayed farewell than it should have been. Herakles was not supposed to leave the world of mortals this way. He sacked Troy, he completed his twelve labours by capturing the fearsome Cerberus, and even rescued the Titan Prometheus.
An unexpected title challenge morphed that sparked new life into a fading force ended up producing one of the worst moments of Steven Gerrard's career. Captaining your country at a World Cup for the first time should be a way to recover but it became another horrendous experience. A first group stage elimination since 1958, playing a part in the goals scored by his colleague Luis Suarez, and replaced as captain for the final game only to come on as a substitute. Liverpool's struggles in the autumn months followed with Gerrard at the base of midfield, with a body no longer able to match his legend.
Liverpool's improvement largely arrived with a more peripheral Steven Gerrard but was halted with his actions central to the defeat in his final game against Manchester United. No matter how one appraises the events of the first half, there was an entire second half with only a deficit of a single goal. Perhaps parity or victory would not have been achieved with equal numbers on the pitch. Maybe Martin Atkinson would have sent off another Liverpool player over the course of the second 45 minutes. The game of "what if" would only scatter even the most astute of minds instead of proving necessary comfort in defeat.
An immediate apology is admirable in a sense, but in the afterglow of such recklessness without addressing the player who was stamped on, it becomes partly unwelcome. It carried the self-importance that Gerrard has often been charged with and didn't alter a possibly season-defining intervention. Sometimes even the most honest and heartfelt of apologies can be difficult to accept for actions for which there are no reasonable excuses. Liverpool still lost the game. Liverpool took the lead from the captain and descended into indiscipline, suffering the loss of Martin Skrtel for at least three crucial matches. Steven Gerrard was apologising for the result, something that he must blame himself for.
The captain was not alone in the events at Anfield on 27 April 2014 and 22 March 2015, but his actions were significant ones. When people mention Zidane's infamous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final in search of similar acts of madness, they forget that he was the best player in a World Cup at 34. He was operating at such a high level and was vital in his nation's progress to the final. It was a final act that seemed to only add to his legend, not provide further evidence of the end of a journey. His side were better with his presence and needed him desperately even at the end of his career.
These won't be the defining memories of Gerrard but now belong to his story. A player who has featured in three finals in European competition, winning two of them along with collecting two UEFA Super Cups cannot be defined by three Premier League runners-up medals. He started the biggest comeback in the history of Champions League finals and one of the greatest FA Cup finals in the history of the tournament has his name on it. The goals, the tackles, the passes, and the moments of inspiration are not diminished by events in Steven Gerrard's final two seasons at Liverpool. However, recent events add a curious glow to how we see a faded legend whose remaining games will probably be best served on the bench.
The remainder of the season is no longer about what Liverpool can do for Steven Gerrard, but what Liverpool can achieve in the final two months of the campaign. His charity match takes on an element of the grotesque after his red card, but his place in Liverpool's pantheon is assured even if there will be twists at the end of tales told about the feats of one Steven George Gerrard.