Steven Gerrard

European Glory: Steven Gerrard’s Retirement (Part 4)

The comeback to end all comebacks and Steven Gerrard, Captain Fantastic, was at the centre of it all!

No-one in football will ever forget that night in Istanbul. The Turkish capital was the site of mission impossible. Liverpool were trailing and Gerrard, leading by example, brought his team back to life to lift the European Cup for his boyhood club. It will go down in football folklore as one of the greatest European finals, and one of the most memorable comebacks in sport history.

On the 25th May 2005, Steven Gerrard and his team mates faced the biggest challenge of their careers. A first 45 minutes of football dominated by AC Milan, left Liverpool trailing by 3 goals to nil (3 – 0) at half-time.

Most of the Liverpool players went into the second half looking to salvage some pride and spare further embarrassment. But one player wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Steven Gerrard was the source of inspiration which led to European Glory, and Liverpool’s fifth European title.

On the 54th minute of the match, Gerrard leaped into the air and fired in a header from a Riise cross. His celebration; a war cry to the travelling Kop. NEVER SAY DIE!

56th minute, Smicer beats Dida with a long-range effort. One more goal, and it’s all tied up with time to spare.

60th minute; the equalizer. Gerrard is fouled by Gennaro Gattuso. Xavi Alonso from the penalty spot; a Dida save, a follow up shot, GOAL!

Over 6 minutes Liverpool, led by Steven Gerrard, had transformed an embarrassing European Final defeat into a real, nail biting contest. One which would be decided in a penalty shoot-out.

It went to the wire. Liverpool had scored 3 of the 4 penalties taken; Milan had only scored 2. The pressure lay with Ukrainian International Andriy Shevchenko. Only Jerzy Dudek stood in his way; and that he did! A penalty save from the Pole, and Liverpool were European Champions once more! 3 – 2 winners in the shoot-out. Mission Impossible: complete!

After an unbelievable European final, Gerrard had his hands on old Big Ears!

A humble player, Gerrard has always recognised the work of his team mates, his manager in Rafael Benitez and the Liverpool supporters for the victory in Istanbul. Gerrard himself has stated that his header, and Liverpool’s first goal, would not have been scored had Didi Hamman still been on the bench and if Riise hadn’t crossed the ball.

Winning the European Cup was a personal landmark for Gerrard. In doing so, he became the second youngest captain to lift the European Cup, aged 24. The youngest is, Frenchman, Didier Deschamps who won the European Cup in 1993 with Marseille.

His heroics on the night, brought unforgettable glory to his boyhood team. It will never be forgotten by the Liverpool faithful or neutral fans alike.

Steven Gerrard was the embodiment of the Kop on that magical night in Istanbul, and his legend will forever be engraved in football folklore.

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Great Rivalries: the North-West Derby (Part 3)

Not your typical Derby, but surely this great rivalry is the most anticipated clash in English football. The two clubs are the most successful English teams in both domestic and European competition and between then they have won 38 league titles, 8 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 4 UEFA Super Cups, 19 FA Cups, 12 League Cups, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 36 FA Community Shields.

Gerrard has travelled the 32 miles, along the M62, on 35 occasions to face his old enemy.  He has won 13, drawn 2 and lost 19 times against the Red Devils of Manchester. Gerrard shares the mantle as the top scorer in the North-West Derby with George Wall and Sandy Turnbull (both of Manchester United), and has scored 9 goals in this fierce rivalry.

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Gerrard’s most famous victories over Manchester United include the League Cup Final win in 2003, where Stevie scored the opening goal and Liverpool lifted the trophy winning 2 – 0 at the Millennium Stadium. Also included in the list of famous victories over Man U is the 4 – 1 thrashing at Old Trafford in 2009. Again, Gerrard was amongst the scorers that day. Some of you may remember Gerrard racing towards the corner flag, kissing the Liverpool badge then kissing the camera in celebration after hammering the ball into the net from the penalty spot to put Liverpool ahead in the first 45 after trailing a goal behind. Gerrard cheekily revisited the camera kissing celebration in 2014, when he scored two goals from two penalties winning the game 3 – 0 at Old Trafford.

Gerrard had some great days, and some terrific goals against Manchester United. Unfortunately, his last game against the Red Devils was tainted by his sending off, after only 38 seconds on the field. Gerrard replaced Adam Lallana at half time, and after moments on the field he was sent down the tunnel for stamping on, Manchester midfielder, Andre Herrera who had lunged in on Gerrard to win the ball. Not a good day for Captain Fantastic.

His first game against his bitter rivals didn’t end with much success either. Liverpool lost 3 – 2 on September 11th 1999 at Anfield against their bitter rivals. Gerrard had to wait over a year to get his first victory over Man Utd. In December 2000 Liverpool walked away as 1 – 0 winners at Old Trafford. He would have to wait a couple more months to score his first North-West Derby goal. On 31st March 2001 Gerrard got his just rewards and scored a long-range screamer at Anfield, when Liverpool bet the Red Devils 2 – 0.

 

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Gerrard had a passion for these games. They meant everything to his city, and to his family. Although he cannot boast the greatest success against his rivals, he always has fantastic memories of getting one over on them on several occasions. Gerrard perfectly summed up his passion for the North-West Derby in his autobiography:

“From Huyton to Melwood to Anfield, for more than twenty-six years, I had always felt compelled to show fire towards United. They were the enemy. You never rolled over against United. If they got one over you, you fought back. You went in harder, with just a little more crunch, just to let them know it really was personal. They did the same to us.” (Steven Gerrard, 2015)

There was rarely a dull moment in these fixtures and it will be weird not seeing the famous number 8 feature in future North-West Derbies, but we can always recall the best of the action and the man at the centre of it all….Steven Gerrard.

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Steven Gerrard’s Retirement (Part 2): The Merseyside Derby

In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Gerrard stated that his hat-trick against Everton marking his 400th Premier League appearance was his favourite Anfield memory.

Gerrard had a real talent of terrorizing the Blues. In fact, he has scored 10 goals in the Merseyside Derby making him 4th in the list of all time Merseyside Derby goal scorers:

  1. Ian Rush (Liverpool) – 25
  2. Dixie Dean (Everton)- 19
  3. Alex Young (Everton) – 12
  4. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – 10

Arguably Gerrard’s most controversial Merseyside Derby was his sending off on 27th September 1999 at Anfield. Kevin Campbell, the Everton striker, had put the Blues ahead by scoring past Dutch keeper Sander Westerveld in the Kop end. Westerveld had gotten himself into more trouble in the second half exchanging blows with Everton striker, and Scouse boy, Francis Jeffers. Both players were naturally sent off in a complete moment of madness. Steven Gerrard completed the hattrick of red cards on the day. The red mist came over him and after only 47 seconds on the field he was sent off.

Steven recalled the incident in his autobiography. He described his disappointment at being left out of the starting XI and explained his game plan:

“just belt one of them. Fucking belt a Bluenose. Let Gerard (Houllier) know he is not dropping me for another derby. Ever.”

He shortly admitted that he was “a red card waiting to happen”. His temper had gotten the better of him, and instant regret followed when he ran up the tunnel. This wouldn’t be Stevie G’s last red card, nor would it be his quickest. A bit more on that in the next edition.

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The Merseyside Derby hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Stevie. In fact, it’s been rather successful.

Gerrard got off to a winning start in his first Merseyside Derby. On April 3rd 1999, The Reds eventually ran out as 3 – 2 winners at Anfield. On September 15, 2001 Gerrard finally got his name on the score sheet. He scored the equalizer as the Reds came back from being a goal down at Goodison to win the game 3 – 1. He made sure the Evertonians would remember the name for years to come as he celebrated his first Derby goal by pointing to the name on the back. Not the first time he’s done that against rival teams.

Gerrard picked up his first Merseyside Derby hat-trick on 13th March 2012. His hat-trick was the first in the Merseyside derby since Ian Rush at Goodison Park in 1982, and the first hat-trick at Anfield since 1935 when Fred Howe put four past Everton. Only four Liverpool players have managed the feat, and now 77 years on Gerrard joined the exclusive club. (Harry Chambers in 1922, Dick Forshaw in 1925, Harold Barton in 1933, Fred Howe 1935, Steven Gerrard 2012)

Gerrard’s derby delight was a sickening blow for Everton, and manager Davie Moyes, as it was the manager’s 10th season in charge of the Blues. His third goal, rattled in at the Kop End, was Liverpool’s 300th against their rivals in all competitions. This was the performance that the Reds were hoping for. Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager on the day, had suffered a bad run of games. Liverpool were at crisis point, so who would step up and prove the doubters wrong but Captain Fantastic himself, Stevie G.

In Gerrard’s book, ‘Steven Gerrard: My Story’, he admits that “every Merseyside Derby generated fear in me”. Gerrard had a fear of losing against the Blues, especially at Anfield. He had only lost to Everton once at home (Anfield), and that was in 1999 after the sending off incident previosuly discussed.

Gerrard also has a great respect for his city rivals. He has often thanked the club for their support with the Hillsborough Inquest, and their charitable giving towards the Hillsborough Family Support Group. In his biography he wrote:

“It was easy to speak sincerely of my gratitude to Everton in regard to Hillsborough; their compassion had been sincere. We were united in grief and a desire for justice. Hillsborough, and the families of every single fan we lost, will always matter far more than the next derby.”

On 28th January 2014, the Reds recorded their biggest Premier League win over Everton winning 4 – 0 at Anfield. This was Liverpool’s biggest Merseyside Derby win at Anfield since 1972, and their biggest in the derby since 1982. Steven Gerrard got himself on the score sheet that day beating Everton centre back Alcaraz to the ball with a header in the box, after a Luis Suarez corner.

In Gerrard’s final season he looked set to steal the headlines. On 27th September 2014, in what was Gerrard’s final Merseyside Derby at Anfield, the captain found himself on the score sheet once more. His second half free-kick soared into the top corner past American International Tim Howard, only to be cancelled out by one of the best Premier League strikes of the season. Phil Jagielka’s incredible volley, described by Roberto Martinez as perhaps “the best strike I’ve ever seen”, stole the show from Gerrard who was minutes away from grabbing the headlines for scoring the winner in his final derby day at Anfield.

Gerrard didn’t get a victory in his last Merseyside Derby and had to settle for a rather drab nil-nil draw but he had some terrific moments in the Merseyside Derby, and no group of fans is more delighted about his retirement than the Evertonians. For many seasons, he was the symbol of their inadequacy. He was the suppressor of Goodison, always keeping the friendly neighbours in their place below the might of his Liverpool.

Steven Gerrard’s Retirement

So, today’s the day. 24th November, 2016. Steven Gerrard, Captain Fantastic, retires from football.

Gerrard spent 17 years at Liverpool, making 710 appearances, scoring 186 goals and winning 9 trophies for the Reds. He ranks fourth in the table for most capped England players with 114 appearances.

The testimonies and career highlights have been all over social media, and we can do nothing but reminisce a fantastic career in football, as one of the greatest leaders on and off the field and one of the best, if not the best, midfielders of the last century retires from the game. 

No one will forget that Steven Gerrard FA Cup final against West Ham or his sizzling, “yaaa beauty!”  strike against Olympiakos in the Champions League or indeed his hattrick against Everton in 2012 or the famous comeback in the Champions League final which resulted in the young skipper lifting old big ears for Liverpool’s fifth European Cup success.

There are many phenomenal moments in Stevie’s career, but also some rather car crash episodes. The slip against Chelsea is his most recent catastrophic error which cost Liverpool a long awaited premier league trophy. His 47 second red card also springs to mind in the epilogue of Stevie’s worst moments. But there can be no doubt that the positives far out way the negatives.

A wonderful player and ‘the last of the dinosaurs’ with a style of football embodied by Wimbledon’s crazy gang, it is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to Stevie G.

Here is the first installment of our five-part special which pays homage to one of the best midfielders we have ever seen. A player who symbolized the old blood and thunder style of the British game, someone who time and time again came up with the goods. An iconic figure of the 21st Century, and one of the most decorated sports men who ever lived.

Premier League great, and Liverpool Legend….Steven Gerrard.

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 The Beginning

Steven Gerrard started his Liverpool career against Blackburn Rovers, on 29th November 1998, replacing Norwegian right back Vegard Heggem.          (Liverpool won 2 – 0 on the day)

French man, Gerard Houllier would be the one to give Stevie G his chance. Gerrard once described Houllier as “one of the nicest men in football”. He has cited the French man as a source of calmness on the day of his debut.

Gerrard didn’t see much action that day however he has since recalled a “safe touch” on the ball, a pass or two and a terrible cross that almost “sailed over the Centenary Stand”. Paul Ince was least delighted with Gerrard after this incident. gerrard-ince210104

In the early stages of his career, the young Gerrard was given the tough task of filling in for injured skipper Jamie Redknapp. In his first season as a red, Gerrard made 13 appearances but has admitted that he struggled out of position and was plagued by nerves.

A special moment for Gerrard was his first Liverpool goal. On 5th December 1999 against Sheffield Wednesday at Anfield Stevie went on a mazy run, he takes it past two then slots the ball into the bottom left hand corner before running to the fans and sliding on his stomach to celebrate what would be the first of many. Liverpool eventually won the game 4 – 1.

At this time, Gerrard had to watch on as the rivalry between Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) grew in intensity. Both teams fought tenaciously over the league, but it was Manchester United who enjoyed most of the spoils. In Gerrard’s debut season, he watched on as the Red Devils completed a unique treble by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, in that famous victory in Barcelona.

Gerard had to bide his time, and his first trophy came in February 2001 beating Birmingham City 5 – 4 on penalties, after a 1 – 1 draw, in the Football League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A couple of months later in May, Gerrard would again lift silverware. This time he lifted the FA Cup after beating Arsenal 2 – 1 over the 90 minutes. Again, the stage of Gerrard’s silverware success was the Millennium Stadium in Wales. Michael Owen, a great friend of Gerrard’s, was awarded man of the match after his 2 goals in the last 10 minutes of the match sealed the deal, and brought the trophy back to Anfield. Four days after lifting the FA Cup, Gerrard would play in his first European Final….but we’ll get to that a bit later.

The early stages were bitter sweet for Gerrard. He had very few starts, relatively few appearances and a Merseyside derby to forget however there were glimmers of hope and his silverware success offered a glimpse of what was to come.

END OF PART ONE.