“We all know he’s in the upper echelons when it comes to Liverpool players, with most having him either first or second behind Kenny Dalglish, but when you look at a list of the greats to play in English football I’d say he is second only to Bobby Charlton in terms of the best midfielders there have ever been.”
The words of Jamie Carragher sum up one of the finest midfield talents produced with the British Isles during recent times. A hero at club level, almost single handedly dragging his side to FA Cup and Champions League victory during his spell as captain, Steven Gerrard has often found himself as a scape-goat for England’s failed ‘Golden Generation’.
This status is rather unfair on a man who epitomizes the role of the ‘midfield general’, and has become a victim of his own versatility on the international scene. Frequently shuffled around the midfield, and even pushed into a striking position, Gerrard has been somewhat undervalued in the England set-up, despite being one of the finest players of his generation in world football. The whole captaincy debate of the past month has summed up the under-appreciation of the 31-year-old in the realms of the national squad. Despite his vastly superior experience he found himself overlooked for the armband in favour of Scott Parker, who has fewer than 20 senior caps, a decision Stuart Pearce explained as being based on an agreement to only play the Reds skipper for 45 minutes following his Carling Cup final exploits. His team-mate Carragher disagreed with this approach in an interview with the Daily mail:
“I was shocked and surprised by that decision,
“Scott Parker is a great player and everyone respects him, but Steven Gerrard should be England captain. He was captain in the World Cup, has been one of the best players for his country for 10 years and there was no debate to be had for me. Whoever the England manager is, Gerrard should be captain and he should have been against Holland.”
Criticisms have often been leveled at the Merseyside born midfielder, for a perceived lack of commitment to the national side, with his club performances appearing to be far superior to his displays for the Three Lions. Yet, the transition between club and country is a particularly tough one for Gerrard who is the focus at Liverpool, dictating play with the side built around him, yet for England he was shifted around, becoming almost a filler player.
Emerging around the same time as Frank Lampard contributed heavily to the Liverpool skipper’s trouble on the international stage, as the similar styles of the two led to an inability to play both in the same midfield set-up. Gerrard’s versatility, and the Chelsea man’s lack of, led to him being shifted around the midfield, often playing wide on the right hand side, or in a more defensive role, nullifying his explosive abilities. There’s no doubting that Lampard is an extremely talented player, and another one of the finest to be produced in England during recent history, however Gerrard’s leadership qualities and ability to take a game by the scruff-of-the-neck have always seen him held in slightly higher regard.
For around 90% of the top national sides, a player of such calibre during the prime of his career would have been first choice and the most important man on the team sheet, end of. Yet for England his willingness to play anywhere for the benefit of the team cost him dear. Far from a failure on the international scene, having represented his nation at major competitions on numerous occasions, racking up in excess of 90 caps along the way. However, it’s hard to say that he has lived up to his extraordinary abilities in for his nation.
Like or loathe Jamie Carragher, it’s difficult to disagree with the defenders verdict on his team-mate. Gerrard is one of the finest talents produced by one of the best footballing nations. It’s a real shame that his talents have never been truly appreciated or utilized by his country.
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