This is about as clinical as I have felt about the retirement, or in this case the passing on, of a sportsman whose career I have followed for years. Often, as a fan, you come across characters whom you start detesting not because he is a thorn in your flesh, not because he is from the opposing camp, but because of how the rest of the world sings paeans about him every other moment, most of the time with a glaring lack of context. This man’s videos, while being parodies, explain the hype.
Steven Gerrard, in many senses, was one of that kind. Oh yes, he scored spectacular goals, triggered, and rightly so, featured as part of the debate about the best midfielder in the history of the Premier League. And yet, what they said of him, what they made of him, them Premier League commentators and a significant section of the football writing world, made him a butt of all our jokes.
To cite an instance, I was at the Premier League carnival in Bombay, thousands of miles and a far cry from Liverpool, watching the United-Liverpool game last year, with 20,000 other fans. There was little reason for any Gerrard reference that night, and yet, a 12,000 strong United fan contingent sang “Anderson 4 Gerrard 0” all night. David de Gea was the hero that night, and our man Valencia even nutmegged Allen. Mmm-hmmm. The Gerrard chants rang out loud from the United fan base, long into the night.
Honestly, making “Gerrard 0” jokes has been fun, and it would stay that way for a long time. But, here’s where credit to him is due. In an era spanning almost two decades, almost all the time, for a lot of us United fans, Gerrard meant Liverpool, and Liverpool meant Gerrard. That he was so interchangeably referenced was down in large part to his stand-out performances , in sides where a number of “talents” and “future prospects” would largely have gone unnoticed and ignored, had they not had the Liverpool tag, apart from the the unique lack of success in the club’s history through this period, and their biggest rivals turning history on its head.
Gerrard’s exploits every once in a while — Istanbul being the pinnacle — made him an outlier in the humdrum existence of a once champion club. So much has been lost, and his time with the club, to everyone but the club’s fans (and the above mentioned commentators/writers), ends in a barely heard whimper. But for being the face of a club, and dare I say, on sheer merit, he deserves to be applauded at this moment.
Fare thee well. It would, sure as hell, be nice if his name was not taken in the middle of a West Brom versus Hull City game next time. That’s where it went sour, and fell flat, and it made schadenfreude inevitable.