No other player has carried a team for so long and kept them going as Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool legend who made his debut 16 years ago on 29th November 1998 against Blackburn Rovers has been at the heart of the Liverpool team ever since.
He is considered as a legend by almost every football follower, be it Liverpool supporters or rivals, Gerrard has always given his all for the club, who for the most part of his career have never had the best team to help Gerrard win that elusive Premier League medal. His time with Liverpool has been filled with highs and lows, from winning the Champions League in 2005 with what is considered as the greatest comeback in the UEFA Champions league to losing out on the title in 2014 with just 3 games remaining. Football is a fickle mistress.
It all started for the now Liverpool legend in 1998 when he came on for the final few minutes in a Premier League tie against Blackburn Rovers as a substitute for Veggard Heggem, he played 13 times in that season, often playing in the right wing position or in a defensive position, making tackles and breaking up play rather than helping out the attack, It was not the best position for Gerrard and he didn’t make as much of an impact for the club nevertheless Liverpool kept faith in the young Englishman.
1999-2000: The first goal of many
Gerrard started playing more regularly for the club and partnered Jamie Redknapp in midfield most of the time. He made his first derby appearance against Everton when he came off the bench to replace Robbie Fowler but was shown a red card for a foul a few minutes later. He scored his first goal for the Reds in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday but this season was filled with injuries as Gerrard had played a lot of games in his young career and had various other injuries, though him being Gerrard came back strong after a set of injuries.
2000-2001: The alternate treble
This was the season that most Liverpool fans of this era would remember, Liverpool went on to win the mini treble, The FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA Cup (Europa League now), Gerrard’s injury problems were behind him now, he made a total of 50 appearances for Liverpool and scored 10 goals. He was voted as the PFA Fan’s player of the year and PFA young player of the year. This was also the year when he made his International debut against Ukraine.
2001-2002: Establishing his spot
Liverpool were still considered as a squad in development and were made to do with cup success. Liverpool won the Charity Shield and the UEFA Super cup, Gerrard made 45 appearances and scored 4 goals for the team, he started playing regularly for the English senior team as well, which included a goal in the 5-1 drubbing of Germany in a World Cup qualifier. England qualified but Gerrard missed out due to injury.
2002-2003: The rise of the future captain
Continuing their run of Cup success, Liverpool won the League cup again this season and Gerrard was promoted to being club vice-captain behind Sami Hyypia. He made 54 appearances for the Reds and scored 7 goals.
2003-2004: Captain Fantastic
Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager named Steven as the Liverpool captain for the season. Gerrard paid the club by signing a contract extension but Liverpool went trophyless this season, Houllier resigned from his position. Gerrard scored 6 goals from his 47 appearances for the club.
2004-2005: 6 minutes of madness in Istanbul
Gerrard was a part of the team that were knocked out from the EURO 2004 championship by runners up Portugal. Rafael Benitez was named as the manager for Liverpool, while Liverpool flattered to deceive in the league, In September, Gerrard suffered a foot injury but he was back to score the important goal in a 3-1 win over Olympiakos to take Liverpool to the next round of the Champions League. He then helped Liverpool beat AC Milan in the final of the UEFA Champions League in extra time, to help Liverpool win the 5th UEFA Champions League title, he helped Liverpool comeback from a 3-0 deficit, one of the greatest games in Champions League history. He was named as the UEFA Club footballer of the year and part of the UEFA team of the year.
2005-2006: FA Cup glory
There were a lot of offers for Gerrard in the off season, especially from Chelsea but he rejected a £20 million move to the London outfit and stayed with Liverpool. The club started to perform better in the league and won the FA Cup, which again featured Gerrard scoring a 90th minute goal to help take the game to extra time. Gerrard made 53 appearances and scored 23 goals for the club. He even won the UEFA Super cup and was voted as the PFA Players’ Player of the year.
2006-2007: First World Cup
Gerrard finally got a chance to represent England in a World Cup since he missed the last one due to injury. He scored two goals in the group stages for England but again England were knocked out by Portugal in a penalty shootout.
Liverpool started the season by winning the Community shield and were a force in the Champions League when they reached a 2nd final in 3 years but lost out to AC Milan 2-1. Gerrard scored 11 goals in his 51 appearances for the club.
2007-2008: 400 appearances
Gerrard’s rise as an attacking player kept on growing for the club; he scored 21 goals in 52 appearances and even set a record for scoring in 7 consecutive games, since John Aldridge in 1989. He made his 400th appearance for Liverpool against Arsenal and was named as England Player of the year and was part of the FIFA FIFPro World XI.
2008-2009: 100 goals for Liverpool
This was Gerrard’s best season in terms of goals as he scored 24 in 44 games for Liverpool, the team came second in the league just behind Manchester United and it included a memorable double over Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, he made his 100th European appearance against Real. He scored his 100th goal for Liverpool against PSV; he won the PFA Fans’ player of the year award and was the FWA Footballer of the year, becoming the first Liverpool player to win the award.
2009-2010: The downfall of Rafa
This was to be the worst season for Rafa Benitez, his team were not doing well at all and Gerrard wasn’t playing his best either, he still finished the season with 12 goals from 49 appearances for Liverpool and he made his 500th appearance for the club but the season ended with the departure of Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson was brought in to replace the Spaniard.
2010-2011: Transfer rumours
The season started with more rumours of Gerrard moving away from the club but those rumours came to naught and he stayed loyal to the club. Liverpool were again through a transition under Roy and Gerrard made only 24 appearances for the club though he scored 8 goals. He missed large chunks of the season due to a groin injury.
2011-2012: King Kenny’s return
Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish returned as manager at the start of the season replacing Roy Hodgson (he had taken over from Roy in January 2011 but was named permanent manager in 2011). Gerrard missed the start of the season due to the same groin injury but he recovered and helped Liverpool reach their first cup final in 6 years by helping them win the League Cup. He even scored a hat trick against Everton in the league.
2012-2013: The new era
Brendan Rodgers was brought in to replace Kenny Dalglish and in a largely forgettable season, Gerrard still managed to score 10 goals in 46 appearances for the club. He was also named as captain for the England team and led them in EURO 2012 where he was named as part of the UEFA team of the tournament, being the only Englishman in team. He was also named England’s player of the year.
2013-2014: Liverpool come so close to the title
This was the season that most people believed could have been Liverpool’s to win the title. They eventually came second when they faltered in the last 3 games but they played exceptional football and Gerrard was revitalized in a new role as quarter back, he scored 14 goals in 39 games for the reds and also created 13 goals in the league. The “slip” against Chelsea was considered to be one of his worst moments in a Reds shirt.
2014: World Cup misery and Liverpool problems
His bad form continued when he led England to the World Cup in Brazil, England were knocked out from the group stage which contained Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, he dubbed this the worst 3 months of his life. Liverpool haven’t been faring all that better in the league either and have been poor but if there is anyone who can do something for the club it has to be Gerrard, he has stuck around for so long, it must be him who can save Liverpool from the wrought but that is the problem in the first place, at 34 years old, how much longer can Liverpool keep calling for him? He has already retired from international duty; it’s only a matter of time before he retires for the Reds. What next then for Liverpool?
Picture courtesy: Liverpool FC,Daily Record, BBC Sport, The Guardian & Daily Mirror