A hamstring strain in the game against West Ham means Liverpool have to do without skipper Steven Gerrard for the next six weeks, a busy six weeks, and there’s no doubt he’ll be missed. Gerrard recently bagged his 100th goal for the Reds and that seemed as good a reason as any to look at the captain’s past, discuss his present and wonder about his future. MIKE NEVIN did the honours, for the latest issue of The Anfield Wrap’s digital magazine.
I’M not sure how the responsibility to write a feature to mark Steven Gerrard’s 100th League goal for Liverpool – a penalty calmly stroked home up at Newcastle in October – landed at my door. Anyone who listens to The Anfield Wrap podcasts will know I’m a self-proclaimed critic of Gerrard. However, by charting a career spanning a remarkable 16 Anfield seasons, perhaps we can explore why I’ve found Gerrard an incredibly complex and at times frustrating talent but am still content to rank him alongside Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes as the best I’ve seen in a red shirt.
Gerrard’s Liverpool career is defined by his catalogue of great goals but he first came to our attention making a match-winning goal-line clearance in the Anfield Derby in April 1999. A defensive second-half substitute, his last ditch intervention preserved the Reds’ 3-2 lead but it was the way he celebrated – the footballer momentarily overtaken by the fan inside – with a clenched fist and jig of delight that made such an impression.
In days preceding TV coverage of youth and reserves games, word was rife that here was a special talent, recognised internally by coaching staff and players alike. Evidence that Gerrard possessed far more than a fan’s passion and raw enthusiasm was presented in the most emphatic style with his first Liverpool goal on December 5 1999. A surging run beginning 30 yards from goal, laced with a season’s worth of dropped shoulders and body swerves, saw the rangy youngster dance through a bamboozled Sheffield Wednesday defence before firing right-footed, hard and low into the bottom corner.
The goal bears a remarkable similarity to one scored at the same Anfield Road End by the great Emlyn Hughes against Sheffield United, but Crazy Horse was a Liverpool captain in his mid-1970s’ pomp as opposed to a tyro midfielder still striving to claim a regular place.
Although Gerrard’s strike was his only goal of the campaign, 31 appearances signalled a fine breakthrough season under Gerrard Houllier as a vastly-improved Liverpool finished fourth, narrowly missing out on a Champions League place after a last-day defeat at Bradford.