Steven Gerrard: Why Captain Deserved to Be Named England's Best Player of 2012
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard capped off a fine few weeks of football on a personal level on Sunday by being named the England Player of the Year for 2012.
There can be little doubt, moreover, that he was entirely deserving of the award.
Following his club's fixture at Manchester City, during which Gerrard scored and assisted in a 2-2 draw, the captain for club and country was named as the Three Lions' best player for the past year ahead of the likes of Ashley Cole and Danny Welbeck.
It follows on the heels of Gerrard also winning an award at the Football Writers' Association gala for outstanding contribution to the national game.
After another year in which England fell disappointingly out of a major tournament without making any big impact, Gerrard was a stand-out performer on the team which was hastily cobbled together by incoming manager Roy Hodgson.
Gerrard was appointed the official national team captain prior to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine and led by example with his committed displays, improved tactical resilience and restraint. He even had an impact in the final third despite playing a withdrawn and rather conservative role in midfield.
Even before and after the tournament, he has performed head and shoulders above many of his teammates, contributing enormously to the early relative success of Hodgson's present managerial reign.
In the final England international fixture of 2012, Gerrard reached a century of caps for his nation, something only five other men had managed before him.
When he left the field of play after 75 minutes, his side led 2-1. The late cataclysmic, Zlatan-inspired meltdown happened when he no longer patrolled and influenced the centre of the park.
Although perhaps not even Gerrard would have been able to do much about that goal.
England's No. 4 played in 11 of their 13 fixtures during the year and was the catalyst for many of England's best spells of football. Even though Gerrard did not score at the Euros, his cross for Andy Carroll's headed goal against Sweden was but one example of his exceptional delivery.
Gerrard also assisted Joleon Lescott's opener against France in the 1-1 draw and scored his penalty in the quarterfinal shootout defeat to Italy.
In fact, he played every minute at Euro 2012, as England were knocked out by the eventual finalists.
Looking at the rest of England's squad, there cannot be too much argument against Gerrard winning. Not only has his form been at a high level over the past 12 months, but also others have failed to replicate their best form.
Frank Lampard missed part of the season and the Euros. John Terry has retired from international duty, Wayne Rooney was not fully fit or in form in the summer tournament and a collection of individuals have seen their international stage chances ebb and flow due to club form or managerial favour.
At age 32 Gerrard remains the brightest light for his national team and is supported by a growing cast of increasingly young starlets. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and several others—including club teammates Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, who won the under-21 player of the year award—will benefit from his experience, as well as his quality on the pitch.
With his form at club level improving with each passing week and in a similar deep-lying midfield role (though with markedly different on-the-ball tactics employed from those of the international side) to that in which he functions for England, there is every likelihood that Gerrard still has much more to give to his country before he calls it a day.
Speaking from experience, he knows that despite other teams being better equipped to win the World Cup in Brazil next year, there is still a chance to believe England can spring a major surprise.
When I speak, I'm realistic and honest. At the moment we're not one of the favourites to win the World Cup but that doesn't mean you stop believing, working hard to improve and try to learn from mistakes you have made in previous tournaments.
We have to have that faith and keep believing. You never stop believing in football. Miracles do happen.
As the man himself says, England will not be one of the favourites to win the World Cup, and at the moment still have plenty of work to do to ensure they are even playing there. But with quality winners like Gerrard in the team, you can always have hope.
A worthy captain, and a worthy winner.
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