Through all of the ups and downs that Liverpool fans have had to endure over the last decade, through all of the unsuccessful managers and disappointing results, from the ecstasy of winning the Champions League to the agony of failing to win the Premiership over and over again, there has always been one individual who the fans rely on more than anything: their captain.
While he has been at the club, Steven Gerrard has been by far the most consistent, reliable, dedicated member of the Anfield family. He is the one player who would put everything on the line for his team, who loves the club and the city more than anyone in the team. He has led by example, put in outstanding performances, week in week out, produced some mind-blowing passes and scored some sensational goals. Without doubt, one of the greatest players the club has ever had.
However, the smell of change in the air over Merseyside is getting ever stronger. A new manager, new owners, new players and a new lease of life. Since the turn of the year, the club have been reborn, their performances and their results towards the end of last season improved significantly, their squad was rejuvenated and, although they just failed in their attempt to qualify for the Champions League, they left their mark and have made the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea sit up and take notice for next season.
And yet, through no fault of his own, Gerrard’s impact during this change has been minimal to say the least. He was only able to put in 24 appearances for the club last season, scoring 8 goals along the way. But most of this occurred during the club’s demise in the first half of the season. Having sat out the last few months of the season through a groin injury, he could only watch from the sidelines as his side marched up the league without him. In his absence, players like Raul Meireles, Luis Suarez and Maxi Rodriguez began to show their full potential and were pivotal in helping the club in its rehabilitation.
Gerrard has now revealed that he will miss the club’s pre-season tour of Asia in order to speed up his recovery. Whilst he is recovering, his club are beginning to gather serious momentum in the transfer market. Having already captured the services of midfielder Jordan Henderson for £20m, they have now revealed that they have agreed a deal to sign Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam. And even though they have also failed in their bid to lure Aston Villa winger Stuart Downing to Anfield, the intent of the owners and the manager to improve the squad is very clear.
This all begs the question as to where the club’s local hero fits in to all of this renovation. To suggest that Gerrard may be on his way out of Anfield would be ludicrous. But it is slowly getting harder to picture his role in this ever-growing squad. Even with Gerrard’s undoubted talents and leadership skills, the squad has plenty of quality and strength-in-depth to cope without him and, at 31, he may not have the same impact that he has had in the last few seasons. It would be unthinkable that the club’s greatest asset of the last decade would suddenly find himself struggling to get in to the first team, but with the amount of talent walking through the doors at Liverpool, that insane concept could soon become very real.
Gerrard will not walk out on the club. He has built his career at Liverpool and loves the club far too much to just walk away from it. But he may have to accept that fact that his place in the first team is not guaranteed anymore. Liverpool fans will always have a place in their heart for Steven Gerrard, but whether he finds a place in the Liverpool XI remains to be seen.
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