TALISMANIC figure. I’ve always hated that phrase. Steven Gerrard has been a talismanic figure for a decade and a half in a Liverpool shirt — I always wanted so much more for him than to be just a talismanic figure.
Liverpool FC became a football club that started to rely upon talismanic figures like Steven Gerrard over two decades ago. We as a set of fans used to mock clubs that had to rely upon talismanic figures, be it Manchester United with Bryan Robson, Tottenham Hotspur with Glenn Hoddle, Arsenal with Liam Brady or even Everton with Bob Latchford. We were unbelievably smug about the whole thing. Talismanic figures were for losers. We would watch and laugh as the whole fabric of a rival team would unravel if they had to cope without their talismanic figure. You could write off a Manchester United title challenge at the sound of a dislocated shoulder.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that Steven Gerrard has ‘carried us’ over the years of his time at Liverpool. Yes, we would have definitely been far poorer without him and our honours list would have had a couple of trophies missing from it, but it is disingenuous to suggest he has been a one-man band, not to mention insulting to some of the fantastic players he has shared a football pitch with. Steven Gerrard is one the greatest players to pull on the red of Liverpool, some people even argue that he is the very best. I’m not sure if I agree with those people or not, but I’d never argue against the concept. We have been truly blessed by his presence in a Liverpool shirt.
Since Liverpool last won the title we’ve soothed the pain by placing our hopes and dreams into the hands of a trio of ‘great Scouse hopes’. Talismanic figures no less. Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and then Steven Gerrard have each carried that particular torch. It’s going to be weird seeing us operating without a new one taking on the baton. Other local lads have played their part, Jamie Carragher most notably, but I’m talking about those attacking forces of nature, those match-winning entities that are born of the city itself. I’m talking about those who inspire others around them to greater things.
Steven Gerrard will leave an un-fillable void in so many respects. Way past the peak of his powers, he could still inspire his team-mates to help him move football mountains. Last season was almost a levitation trick.
Steven Gerrard is by no means perfect, I occasionally got the impression that he didn’t always believe the targets his managers set him could be attained. Sometimes, in the face of a set-back, his shoulders would slump in a manner that suggested all was lost. I can remember the quarter-final draw being made for the Champions League in the Spring of 2005, pitting us together with Juventus and Gerrard publicly stating something along the lines of “oh well, it was a good run while it lasted”. Rafa Benitez took his captain to task over the negative comments, and it was there and then that the seeds that would bloom so beautifully in Istanbul were sown.
In the 2013-14 title race Steven Gerrard was a man infused with belief. Destiny was calling him and he very nearly reached it. It was almost as if the indelible fact he finally believed it was possible, became the reason it was such a very, very real possibility. The night he scored that injury time winner from the penalty spot at Craven Cottage against Fulham you could see a man re-born. You could see a man that suddenly believed in Christmas. When he wheeled away to celebrate in front of the travelling fans, he tore his shirt off and swung it above his head as he leapt into the cold night air letting out a primeval roar that stirred the blood. That unique brand of inspiration was compelling.
The domino effect appeared unstoppable, but his heart shattered when we lost to Chelsea three games from the finish-line. The Steven Gerrard of 12 months ago looked like a man that was bathing three times a day in the fountain of youth. The Steven Gerrard of now looks like a man who’s hit the wall once too often. It’s suddenly reached the concept of where elephants go to die. It seems they go to the MLS. In Liverpool’s squad of ever dropping average age Steven Gerrard is becoming a grandfatherly figure. Another year from now and there lays the danger of him clattering into challenges and seeing his Werthers Originals spill all over the shop.
It’s going to be incredibly sad to see him go. Part of you can’t help but argue that Gary McAllister carried on at a high level until he was 37. That in footballing terms the night is still young and he should stick around for at least one more dance. But maybe he’s had enough of being the great Scouse hope. Maybe Steven Gerrard needs to get away from the surroundings of his greatest triumphs and tragedies. Maybe we need Steven Gerrard to get away from the surroundings of his greatest triumphs and tragedies.
We don’t have a new king to replace the old one with. Maybe that is no bad thing. Prior to the era of the talismanic figure we used to create teams that took equal collective responsibility for what happened on the field of play. Maybe a new direction rather than simply looking for a new great Scouse hope is the way forward for Liverpool FC now. I pose far more questions than answers.
I always wanted more for Steven Gerrard than to be a talismanic figure. I wanted him to be surrounded by like-minded and equally talented team-mates, and to be classed as part of a classic team rather than as a classic individual. Steven Gerrard did play with players like that, just not enough of them at the right time. Steven Gerrard walked on to football pitches in Liverpool red with Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Karl Heinze Riedle, Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann, Markus Babbel, Jari Litmanen, Gary McAllister, Nicolas Anelka, Luis Garcia, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Fernando Morientes, Daniel Agger, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling. There have also been a litany of other reasonably decent players, but there has been a hell of a lot of dross to put up with too.
Steven Gerrard is an unforgettable player who has consistently taken the breath away on a regular basis for 16 years. You don’t need me to list those magical moments. There will never be another one quite like him and it has been an utter joy and privilege to witness his Liverpool career go full cycle. It had to come to an end eventually, but it was always going to feel too soon. It will soon be time for us to let go of this most talismanic of figures and do something new, but let’s enjoy him while he’s still here — let’s give him the send-off he deserves. Let’s forget the things he can’t do any more and revel in the glorious things he can still do.
You are going to miss them once they’ve gone.
READ: STEVEN GERRARD: YOU KNOW YOU’LL OFTEN STOP AND THINK ABOUT HIM
READ: STEVEN GERRARD: EXPERIENCE LOST
LISTEN: PODCAST – THE HUYTON HAMMER
Pics: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda
Great piece Steven. I’ve often cited this argument. United didn’t start winning things until they stopped relying on Bryan Robson. We did laugh at them, because they were the antithesis of Liverpool. Splashing out money on flash individuals while we went about our business quietly and collectively. They might beat us in the league, but they would never win the league: they were a cup team, no more, no less. We were bigger than that. The roles have been reversed over the last 20 years or so and it’s been painful: we’ve been a cup team, we’ve been overly-reliant on one or two star players. This from the club who’s greatest managers constantly invoked socialism and communism to describe Anfield’s team ethic. So let’s hope Steven’s departure ushers in a new era, one more humble, more collective, more modest, equally successful.
What a great piece Steven.And to see so much of your last 7 or 8 years watching Liverpool stretched out to 3 or 4 paragraphs is some achievement.Bye the way,when did you get your first computer?
You can get a few more random opinions you know if you search with “Google Chrome”.
Let me get something straight here.My first game at Anfield was nearly 60 years ago.I played the game at a reasonably high level.I’ve watched Liddell,St.John,Hunt,Rush,Dalglish,Hughes,Fowler and the rest of them.They were all amazing g players and often made me wonder why I bothered.
But then again I started playing in earnest after being inspired by “Roy of the Rovers “when I was a kid.Oh! I realised it was all a fairy tale soon enough.That could never happen in the real world.
Then I saw Gerrard about 15/16 years ago and realised that it could happen if you give every single ounce of yourself to the team and the cause.
So,no nitpicking eh?No smart Alec comparisons?Why don’t we just give Steven Gerrard the fulsome and wholesome praise he deserves.And just try and imagine where we would have been without him. (Just Google Chrome it if you’ve not sure)!
A bit waspish, Brian, but I understand how you feel. I, like you, was a supporter in the days when we were called Liddellpool, and with good reason. I worshipped Billy Liddell, who played in every position bar keeper (no substitutes in those days, so Billy filled any gaps.) have seen all the greats and admired them all, but Steven Gerrard is the only one who allowed you to believe in Roy of the Rovers. A goal
Down with two minutes to go, there was still time for a corner to be headed clear, and you just knew the lad could thunder it into the net!! From anywhere! The game was never lost with Gerrrard around.
In fact, his taking the corners distressed me no end over the last couple of years because he should have been lurking outside the area, waiting to pull the trigger on a Stevie Special!! For that and other inspirational memories I consider him to have been our greatest ever player. We will never see his like again.
Cheers Kevin,good to hear from an old timer like myself!
But I think you might know the answer to this.Do you remember the old “fitness test”?When the injured player came onto the pitch 20 minutes before kick-off and Ronnie Moran would roll a ball to him a few times and watch him run and kick it then decide if he was fit enough to play?And when an injured player missed one or two games at most?
Well how come today’s fitness tests involve a legal representative,an agent,a hair stylist,a make-up artist,a wardrobe consultant,a dietician,a chauffeur,a personal physician and a PR adviser and an image rights specialist?And they still take weeks or months to recover?
So many great memories and it’s been an absolute privilege to watch him become a true LFC legend.
Steven Gerrard. I thank you and good luck
For those who think this is the end of the world, try watching this. It will remind you how we used to be when we were a proper club:
“When we were a proper club…”. What’s that supposed to mean?
When we won things, didn’t make a big deal about players leaving the club and when we kept news in-house. When the club was bigger than any one player and local supporters could afford tickets. Different times though, different media.
Oh! But we have always made a “big deal” about certain players leaving.Remember Keegan?Owen?McManaman?Suarez?
The big difference here is that one player has been bigger than the Club over the past 15 years or so.The one player who single handedly has preserved the values of this Club through thick and thin and dragged us over the finishing line time after time.
And I’m not just talking about big “winner takes all” games.I’m talking about run of the mill bread and butter league games where you came out gob-smacked because he had once again snatched victory from the very precipice of defeat.
Sure enough we’ve had Alonso,Torres,Suarez and the rest of them.But deep down in our hearts I think we always knew that they were nothing more than a dalliance.A coquetish distraction from our humdrum Saturdays waiting for Steven Gerrard to get us out of the you know what again!
So,you can begrudge the rest of them whatever you like but not Steven Gerrard.
I don’t mind us making a fuss, Brian, as long as it doesn’t descend into panic, anxiety and sentimentality. Players come, players go, if you’re an old timer you’ll know that. I’m more concerned about the national media and the danger that the long goodbye overshadows our season. As I’ve posted elsewhere, supporters can be sentimental, the club and the manager cannot.
Great piece Steven, sums up a lot of my feelings on the subject. Fantastic praise from BrianB and Kevin B. I must heed your comments given I never saw Billy Liddell play.
We owe Stevie G a lot and hopefully the time is right for both him and us to move on. Being a bit part player is not really in his make up so his decision makes sense for all concerned. I suspect we underestimate how much BR has had to contend with losing Cara, Suarez and now Stevie. I like the sentiment in the piece hoping the team now comes to the fore yet again. Many times in the eighties we used to compare the Mancs to us and man for man you would have plumped for their players 9 times out of 10 BUT it was never like that over a season, we simply crushed them.
So long Stevie and the best of wishes, let’s all hope next season brings both you and us the titles we all long for.
Great article. I, like everyone else, am sad to see Stevie leave. But if he isn’t prepared to not play every week, then the time is right. We might get rocked temporarily by him leaving, but I think it will ultimately be a healthy thing for the club. It is time for us to move on, and time for new leaders to step up. I’m excited about the future… if we can start getting our transfer business in order one of these days!