Last month, Steven Gerrard hung up his boots, ending a career that spanned nearly 20 years from his debut in 1998 against Blackburn Rovers through to a final match with the LA Galaxy in the MLS playoffs in November. And while he says he misses the game sometimes, he insists that he made the right decision to retire from it when he did.
“You miss it,” Gerrard admitted. “But I think I made the right decision personally. The body’s aching a little bit. I could still play at a certain level but it’s not the same as it was for the 15 years where you play every week and demand the best from yourself. When you become a squad player or drop down a level, you don’t get that same feeling.”
Speaking on BT Sport ahead of tonight’s derby match against Everton, it was put to Gerrard that he could still do a job for a top side–that he could still perhaps play 25 Premier League games as, if not one of the starting eleven, then as perhaps the first midfield name on the bench. While it’s a nice thought, Gerrard’s reading of the situation seems fair.
It was clear in his final year at Anfield that Gerrard was slowing, and the attempts to keep him on the pitch for 90 minutes every week at times appeared to both hurt the team and Gerrard. He might have it in him still either to play regularly at a lower level or in spot duty at the top, but spot duty isn’t something Gerrard would ever be happy with. He knows that.
And, with the Galaxy, he had some experience at a lower level and found that it wasn’t an appealing way to prolong his career. So sometimes, like when Liverpool face off against Everton and he’s on hand watching, it’s going to be unavoidable for Gerrard to wish he could still be involved. But wishing doesn’t make something reasonable.
In retrospect, perhaps the only disappointing thing about the whole situation is that it took a detour to Los Angeles for him to realise this and come to grips with it, which prevented Gerrard from retiring as a one-club man.