Steven Gerrard's Role in Liverpool's Fortunes Makes Him a Compelling Character

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Steven Gerrard's Role in Liverpool's Fortunes Makes Him a Compelling Character
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Steven Gerrard had helped Chelsea out before, albeit not as much as he could have done if he’d signed for them when he had the chances to.

There was the own-goal equaliser in the 2005 League Cup final in Cardiff; a strike which forced the match into a period of extra-time from which the Blues would emerge victorious. There was also the back pass to Didier Drogba in a crucial match at the end of the 2009/10 season, when a Liverpool win over Chelsea could have handed the league title to Manchester United. Sound familiar, Everton fans?

So it came to pass that the third of Gerrard’s errors would be the most damaging to the Reds. His Reds. His club.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The slip which allowed Demba Ba to give Chelsea an advantage they were never going to let go of at Anfield last Sunday will ultimately prove meaningless if Liverpool are to win the Premier League title this season, but with it came the passing of the baton to Manchester City. They are the ones with the momentum now, with the finish line in sight.

Whilst Gerrard’s stumble allowed for the plenty who glory in any failings of Liverpool and their captain to have their fun, it was just the latest in a long line of crucial impacts he’s made over his career, both positive and negative.

This is the only player who has scored goals in League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League finals, the latter trio of which are widely remembered as some of the greatest showpiece matches of this century, featuring the small matter of 21 goals.

You can add plenty more goals and moments to savour to that list. Olympiakos, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Merseyside derbies, they are all in there, but then there are the bad times, too.

Wayward passes, missed penalties, red cards. There always seems to be a Gerrard story in whatever it is that Liverpool achieve or fail to.

TOM JENKINS/Associated Press

Indeed, the Reds might well take some inspiration from the most recent time that their captain lifted a trophy, the League Cup final against Cardiff City at Wembley two years ago, when Gerrard missed his penalty in the shootout—Liverpool’s first kick of it—and they still went on to win.

From agony to ecstasy, from the villain to a hero, from wanting a hole to open up in the ground to climbing to the top of the Wembley steps.

Perhaps the best example of Gerrard’s enduring role in Liverpool’s fortunes came before that though, in the thrilling Champions League quarter-final against Arsenal at Anfield in 2008.

At 2-1 up and heading through, a Liverpool corner dropped to Gerrard on the edge of the penalty area.

Instead of controlling the ball and looking for a pass—something that he’d probably do now—he took a wild swing at it, missed it, then watched on as Theo Walcott raced away to set up Emmanuel Adebayor for the strike which looked as though it was putting Arsenal through on away goals.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Fast forward 60 seconds, and after Kolo Toure had brought down Ryan Babel in the penalty area Gerrard was back at the Kop end of Anfield again, with the ball on the spot and the chance to send his Reds into the last four. He emphatically took it.

It is that central role—literally these days—that Gerrard plays in the successes and failures of his team which makes him such an intense and fascinating character, one who goes out onto the pitch knowing that he’ll be the one responsible for victory or defeat.

It’ll be the same at the World Cup in the summer, when every misfortune suffered by England—and there will at least be one—will be immediately followed by Gerrard’s face flashing up on your television screen, thereby establishing his as the face of the moment.

He shouldn't be pitied for this, as it comes with his style of play, and his seemingly relentless devotion to being “the man who makes a difference.”

Perhaps it’ll change over the twilight years of his career, maybe even with an international retirement looming after the summer.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Maybe one day he’ll be less of the star attraction, the key man and the central figure in whatever the latest drama surrounding Liverpool is.

But with two games left in the season that the Reds simply have to win, you wouldn't bet against him hogging the headlines once more.

For positive reasons this time, obviously.

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