STEVEN GERRARD SPENT 17 YEARS AT LIVERPOOL. HE WAS CAPTAIN FROM 2003 TO 2015.
Whatever else Jurgen Klopp
achieves at Liverpool this season, one thing is clear: he's already cured the
club of its Steven Gerrard dependence.
Now, that might sound
strange, especially considering that the legendary ex- skipper left the club
well over a year ago. Indeed, Gerrard, for all of his powers, had become far
less influential in his last two seasons, as the likes of Luis Suarez and
Raheem Sterling came to the fore.
But there's no question
that at the height of his powers, Gerrard almost single-handedly carried the
hopes and aspirations of Liverpool Football Club. Think about it. Liverpool's
biggest achievements of the last 15 years all bear the indelible mark of
Gerrard genius: still a young prodigy, he scored one of the goals in the 2001UEFA
Cup Final; scored in the 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in the 2003 League Cup
final; scored the crucial Olympiakos goal that staved off Champions League
elimination in 2004, then scored to start the revival in Istanbul; and made the
2006 FA Cup final his own with two fantastic goals, one a spectacular equalizer
in the last minute of extra time.
You get the picture; when
the chips were down, Liverpool looked to Gerrard, and he (often) delivered.
It's easy to get used to that, easy to fall into the trap of expecting one
special player to come along and transform a team.
But players like Gerrard
are one in a generation, so as his powers waned, so the fan clamour for another
messiah waxed. Suarez? Off to Barcelona. Sturridge? Always injured. Sterling?
Gone too soon. This perhaps explains why the choice of Jordan Henderson - who's
having a fine season by the way – as captain, will always underwhelm some fans.
How could he ever live up to Gerrard's long-running skipper-super hero double act?
How could anyone?
Enter Klopp and Liverpool
class of 2016. The German coach has in the space of one year cobbled together a
team no longer dependent on the powers of one great player, but rather thriving
on the various attributes of a well drilled collective - and they are playing
some exciting, attacking football. Sure, the likes of Coutinho and Firmino will
still dominate the headlines, but other unsung players - Milner, Clyne, Lallana
and Henderson - have already earned plaudits this season.
It makes Klopp’s team
harder to predict, harder to stop. It also makes it less vulnerable, less
dependent on the form, fitness or fidelity of one big star.
That should gladden the
heart of Liverpool fans everywhere.