Steven Gerrard hoped to leave Liverpool in a blaze of glory but Ralph Ellis fears that yesterday’s red card is instead another sign of an amazing Anfield career drawing to a disappointing close…
Sometimes sport delivers wonderful stories that even the most hackneyed Hollywood producer wouldn’t dare to dream up.
You know the sort of thing: star player, loyal one-club man and captain of the side he supported as a boy, coming to the end of a glittering career, gets one last hurrah leading the side out at Wembley on his 35th birthday before lifting the FA Cup in front of thousands of delighted fans.
Sadly it doesn’t always go like that. In real life the triumphant farewell at the top is the exception rather than the rule. And for Steven Gerrard a season that was intended to be a great goodbye tour is slowly dissolving into a let-down of epic proportions.
A career in which Gerrard was the go-to man in a crisis, the player whose dynamic leadership turned defeats into heroic and massive victories, has suddenly gone into reverse.
His mind is trying to create one final triumph. Somehow circumstances are conspiring to leave him as the man getting the blame for everything that goes wrong. It’s almost horrible to watch one of English football’s greatest players suffering so badly.
Yesterday’s 38 second red card against Manchester United was just the latest instalment, going right back to that notorious slip against Chelsea at the end of last season which finished his chances of collecting a Premier League title medal.
Poor Gerrard. The idea of quitting international football after the World Cup (another disappointment) was to concentrate on getting everything right for his club. Instead it leaves him stuck with a fortnight to fret about his foolish reaction to Ander Herrera‘s late tackle, and that’s even before his three game ban begins.
You have to admire his courage in fronting up and making a public apology so soon after the final whistle. And of course his red card wasn’t the only reason the Kop didn’t get the victory that would have put them in pole position for the fourth Champions League spot – the rest of Brendan Rodgers’ side had failed to turn up in the first half.
After taking 33 points from 39 available, Liverpool had come in to roughly even money to achieve a top four finish. Losing to United has seen them go out to 4.216/5.
Gerrard will be forced to sit out the next Premier League match away to Arsenal, and then the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Blackburn. His dream scenario of ending his Anfield career as a Wembley winner is in the hands of the rest of the squad.
Gerrard’s problem is simple. He is trying too hard. He wants it too much. Given the responsibility of leading a fightback against United when he left the bench after 45 minutes, he was fired up to steam into his first tackle and the adrenalin was still flooding when he made the bad decision to stamp on Herrera a few seconds later.
He can’t win. If Liverpool flop in those games without him then he doesn’t get his medal – if they do succeed it will be tougher for Rodgers to change the team when his club captain is available again.
Of course he may yet get his dream. Liverpool are 3.3512/5 to win the FA Cup. If his side were winning with a few minutes left at Wembley Rodgers would have to have a heart of flint not to send on his club captain to collect the trophy.
Yet somehow you sense that for Gerrard, who has been one of the game’s great warriors, picking up a Cup through sentiment rather than because he’d earned it would actually be only a final insult rather than a great goodbye. Not at all what the Hollywood producer would have wanted.