Steven Gerrard Still Has a Big Role at Liverpool Beyond This Season

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard watches as Chelsea celebrate their second goal during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday April 27, 2014. Chelsea won the game 2-0. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Fans of Manchester United/Manchester City/schadenfreude will no doubt have enjoyed the sight of those Liverpool fans weeping tears of sorrow after they achieved the not inconsiderable feat of making a mess of the apparently un-messable on Monday night.

There are, of course, small crumbs of comfort for Liverpool fans, from the sense that they have already far exceeded expectations, to finishing way, way above Manchester United. And then there's the knowledge that, because of the collapse at Palace, the blame for missing out on the title might not be placed on Steven Gerrard's slip against Chelsea.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Gerrard came second in the Football Writers' Association player of the year awards, behind Luis Suarez, but that award was pretty generous. Gerrard has undoubtedly been good in his more withdrawn role in the Liverpool midfield, but he has arguably been Liverpool's fourth or fifth best player this season, behind Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and probably Jordan Henderson.

Indeed, it is perhaps no coincidence that Liverpool have stumbled in the last two games when Henderson has been absent, suspended after his red card against Manchester City, his driving runs from midfield missing and the man to do Gerrard's running for him a big loss.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

It would be tempting to think that Gerrard, who will be 34 at the end of May, should be put out to pasture, his time at Liverpool gone and with a number of other players superseding him in the ranks of importance at Anfield. He is no longer their most important player, no longer the man they turn to when things aren't going to plan, and to be frank, his job could be done just as well by a younger player.

However, Gerrard's importance to Liverpool goes beyond simple performance in midfield. This, despite their remarkable title challenge this term, is still a work in progress, a team full of young players still learning their craft.

And they have a manager still learning, too. While Brendan Rodgers is way ahead of schedule with this Liverpool team, he still needs the steadying influence of Gerrard on the pitch, something he clearly recognises. He told the Liverpool Echo this week:

Steven will be one we look to get a contract to in the summer. With a year to go, it’s something we will address...

Come the summer, he will still only be 34. Looking towards the future, I still think he’s going to be a key part of our squad. He has dropped into a new position and played it seamlessly. His intelligence in the game is second to none. He is improving all the time.

It’s one where he has been brilliant for me as a captain and as a player this season and I would like that to continue...But for me Steven still has so much to offer and I really want him beside me here working on the field.

This season might have been the best chance Liverpool had to win the title but under Rodgers they still have a side full of promise, youth and skill. However, that doesn't mean that their ageing captain doesn't still have a role to play at Anfield.