My Football Heroes: Steven Gerrard

At half time in the 2005 Champions League final, Liverpool trailed AC Milan 3-0. Inspiration was desperately needed, their captain delivered.

Born within ten miles of the ground where he would make his name, Steven Gerrard is the classic local hero. Gerrard was spotted by Liverpool scouts at the age of 9, he signed a professional contract with club at 17. He would mature from a shy teenager into the captain of his club and country. Gerrard made his first team debut on 29th November 1998, with a substitute appearance against Blackburn Rovers. Gerrard’s first start came at White Hart Lane against Tottenham, where he was given the job of marking David Ginola, Gerrard struggled in that game but insists he learnt an awful lot from the experience.

The following season saw the evidence of the goal-scoring prowess, which would become a key part of Gerrard’s game, he claimed his first goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Despite groin and back problems punctuating his blossoming career, he was becoming a first team regular and a fans favourite. The new millennium would be the making of Gerrard, then Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier signed a midfielder who would be integral to the youngsters development, Gary McAllister.

2001 was an incredible year for Liverpool, the club claimed the treble of League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup. Gerrard was becoming known as a big game player, he scored the second as Liverpool won the UEFA Cup beating Spanish side Alaves 5-4. Gerrard made 50 starts during that historic campaign, scoring 10 goals. A year on Gerrard’s stock had risen further, international caps at youth level had been followed by a senior call up. Injury meant Gerrard missed the 2002 World Cup but the following season saw Liverpool raise silverware in Cardiff, defeating Manchester United 2-0 in the League Cup final, a game Gerrard delivered on the big occasion. A year later Gerrard was named Liverpool captain, within six months Gerrard was also leading England in the absence of David Beckham.

For many supporters, Liverpool is more than just a football club, it’s an institution with a heritage that demand the past informs the present. In the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989, 96 supporters lost their lives – The darkest day in the clubs history, Steven Gerrard felt that pain, having lost a cousin in the disaster.

May 2004 saw Houllier replaced by Rafael Benitez, Gerrard had been impressed by the Spaniard’s Valencia team who had beaten Liverpool twice, two seasons earlier and the compliment was returned. The Champions League final in 2005 was Liverpool’s first European cup final since 1985. Steven Gerrard was at the forefront of the Liverpool comeback that night, Gerrard scored Liverpool’s first, the captain also won a penalty, Alonso would score the follow up to make it 3-3. The game changed after Liverpool’s first goal, the atmosphere changed, Liverpool and Gerrard believed it was possible. No more goals meant the final would be decided on penalties, Liverpool famously triumphed.

Following Gerrard’s heroics in the final, Jose Mourinho tried to sign him for Chelsea and Gerrard had a big decision to make. However, a new contract at Liverpool was eventually agreed, their captain was staying put. The following season saw more heroics from Liverpool’s captain, in the 2006 FA Cup final, Liverpool trailed West Ham United by 2 goals after half an hour. Gerrard’s superb pass to Djibril Cisse began the comeback, Gerrard equalised with a lethal half volley. As the game went into injury time, Liverpool trailed once again. Gerrard had cramp but still had an unforgettable part to play, Gerrard unleashed a ferocious effort from distance which almost broke the net as it nestled in the bottom corner. Liverpool triumphed in another penalty shootout and won the FA Cup for a seventh time. Liverpool’s captain was now one of the most complete players in the game and had the medals to prove it.

The ensuing years have brought highs and lows, Gerrard was voted the PFA Player of the year in 2006 and awarded an MBE the following year. 2007 also saw him lead Liverpool to another Champions League final, though AC Milan gained revenge with a 2-1 win. That was soon forgotten as Gerrard scored his 100th club goal against PSV in the Champions League, a strong league campaign saw Liverpool finish as runners up to Manchester United in 2009, Gerrard was voted the football writers player of the year.

After returning from the 2010 World Cup, he was met by new Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, however his stay was short lived. Hodgson’s replacement was club legend Kenny Dalglish and silverware followed as Liverpool won the League Cup against Cardiff City. A hat-trick in the Merseyside derby was another high point, Gerrard found himself working under the man, who according to most supporters is the only player who stands above Gerarrd in the pantheon of Liverpool legends.

With England Gerrard was reunited with Roy Hodgson, who named Gerrard captain of the national team. England were eliminated from Euro 2012 by Italy. When Gerrard returned home, once again there was a new man in charge at Liverpool, this time Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool entered a new era, in November of that year, Gerrard became only the sixth Englishman to make it to 100 appearances in an England shirt. 10 months later scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Poland that clinched England’s qualification for the World Cup in Brazil, his 100th Premier League goal followed just three days later. His testimonial would make 2013 a very special year for Steven Gerrard, a one club man, a superpower for club and country and widely regarded as a football great. Gerrard ended his career with MLS side LA Galaxy, making 38 appearances scoring five times.

Steven Gerrard is one of the greatest players ever to grace the game and will forever be a Liverpool and England legend.

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