This month’s clash with Liverpool will more than likely be the last time Steven Gerrard will face West Ham in the Premier League after he confirmed he will be moving on from Merseyside at the end of the season. Although it would be a big U-turn, it is still possible to get odds on Stevie G to be at Liverpool next season, albeit on loan, fuelling speculation that Brendan Rodgers is the main source of the problem.
Gerrard has always been seen as the typical one-club player and it’s been great to watch him grow and really fulfill his lifelong ambition. It’s hard not to feel for Reds’ fans at the moment as the news sinks in that one of their favourite players is heading for the exit door. As West Ham fans though, we wave him a fond farewell and hope that we never have to watch THAT FA Cup goal again.
Gerrard has caused us problems in his illustrious career. The tears flowed as he spectacularly hit the back of the net in the last minute of the 2006 FA Cup Final. That thunderbolt led to a penalty shootout and an ultimate defeat for the Hammers. From a personal point of view, that’s one of the most heartbreaking moments of my time as a West Ham fan, and one that we’re being forced to relive as Gerrard’s ‘best bits’ are circulated on television, in newspapers and online.
In more recent history, Gerrard put two past Adrian as the Reds emerged 2-1 victors at the Boleyn Ground last season. Liverpool were on a title challenge at the time, but the win didn’t go without its hiccups as Gerrard claimed foul play from West Ham. He argued that the staff had made their Upton Park visit as uncomfortable as possible as the team coach had to park ‘a mile away’ from the ground, the dressing room was unusually warm and the pitch was too dry.
Anfield is never a happy hunting ground for West Ham, but for different reasons – we just can’t get a result! It goes without saying that captain Gerrard has a lot to contribute to each performance. That’s what Liverpool will miss about Gerrard, his undoubted ability to lead and inspire. I personally really liked his warrior-like approach to Liverpool’s ‘nearly’ season of 13/14. His famous rallying huddle after victory over Manchester City at Anfield was fuelled with passion, adrenaline and determination.
I don’t think there’s enough of that in football to be honest, and to see someone genuinely care so much was refreshing but wasn’t intentionally rubbing anyone’s face into Liverpool affairs. I equally found his protection of Luis Suarez following the 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace last season the work of a true captain. Live on television, Liverpool embarrassingly let a 3-0 lead slip, leaving Suarez in tears.
Gerrard tried to keep the cameras away from the emotional scene and comforted his star striker who realised that the title hopes were all but vanished. It was a good showing of captaincy and human kindness. But there’s no doubt that his footballing ability has taken a significant tumble since his unfortunate, and now famous, slip. Whilst others reveled in his misery, Stevie G dusted himself down and continued, just to a less effective standard.
To be honest, this is the reason I think Liverpool will probably deal with the loss of their captain more easily than they have coped with losing Luis Suarez. To bring it back home again, it’s like Mark Noble leaving after another few years at West Ham.
His skill, although a great asset to the team, might not be the thing leaving the biggest void, but his dedication to the cause and sheer determination to do well for the team would be difficult to replace. The failure to award Gerrard with a new contract that meets his demands has ultimately been Liverpool’s downfall, and as Sam Allardyce has publically stated, player power is on the rise, illustrated by this scenario. It’s a dangerous position for managers and boards to be in, but with the crazy money on offer elsewhere, temptation and demands are a factor in today’s game. Has Gerrard been the best midfielder the Premier League has ever seen? No, I don’t think so.
But does he want to live out his last few footballing years as a squad player? Evidently not. With a Champions League medal in the bag along with two FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Cup and two Super Cups, all he’s missing is that elusive partridge in the pear tree – a Premier League winners medal.
My advice for West Ham fans is to practice switching to your ‘happy place’ for every time we’re going to see his FA Cup screamer on newsreels in the coming months.