When Steven Gerrard announced his impending semi-retirement by way of the MLS, the need to send Liverpool’s captain off with a bit of silverware quickly became a talking point for the club and its fans. Given Gerrard’s history of important goals in the FA Cup and that the final falls on his birthday, for most that seems to have become the bit of silverware of choice.
"We want Stevie to finish his career here with another trophy," Martin Skrtel told the Liverpool Echo following last night’s difficult 2-1 victory over League Two side AFC Wimbledon. "Theres a long way to go in the competition but we will try our best. We came here to qualify for the next round and we achieved that, [even though] it was a tough night for us."
Having gotten past the test provided by one fired-up underdog, Liverpool now know that they will face off against Bolton at Anfield towards the end of a busy January that sees them scheduled to play three more league matches as well as a two-legged League Cup semi-final against Chelsea. It’s a match that one paper at least makes them favourites to reach the round of 16.
If they can do that, then talk of Gerrard picking up the FA Cup before he heads to Los Angeles will go from idle chatter to fully formed narrative. As for the captain’s impending departure, Skrtel confirmed that few knew Gerrard’s thoughts on the matter ahead of time, and the Slovak centre half says that he only learned of the news when he read about it in the papers.
"I found out when I read the newspapers," said Skrtel. "I was shocked to be honest. He’s been here for such a long time and when he’s not here after this season it’s going to be different. It won’t be the same. It will be difficult without him. He’s the leader on the pitch. He’s a great player and a nice guy as well. We will miss him both on and off the pitch.
"It will be really difficult to replace him, [but] he has made his decision and we have to respect it. It’s up to him and his family. He knows what’s best for them. We wish him all the best in the next stage of his career."