I’ve always supported Liverpool since I was a child. My whole family supports them, my brother has had a season ticket for as long as I can remember and despite the fact that I look way better in blue, I always knew that supporting a team wasn’t a fashion choice. We don’t stop supporting our team just because they lose a
few lot of games. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are, without a doubt, the legends of my time – alongside my childhood hero Kenny Dalglish.
I was really sad when Carragher retired and hoped to see him continue at the club in a coaching capacity. But he’s also very entertaining as a pundit. Gerrard’s announcement that he would be leaving was met with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he’s not ready to stop playing, but he’s past the point where he’s fast enough for a premiership team, and despite his motivational presence, the team have performed better without him on some occasions this year. Maybe his impending departure was weighing heavily on the team, maybe their heads haven’t been in the game. But there’s been a lot of negative, vitriol all over the internet since Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, calls for Brendan Out and talk of the gaping hole Gerrard will now leave.
Despite what hardcore football fans may claim, football is just a game. It is.
In its most basic description, it’s a game, where two teams of eleven players try to get a ball between the goal posts, without using their hands. A ball. A spherical object that bounces in an apparently random way, influenced by principles of maths and physics.
Doesn’t sound that hard – although, don’t forget – you can’t touch the ball with your hands!
What makes a good player?
If the random placing of a ball is the deciding factor between winning and losing, how on earth can you differentiate between the skill and value of a player? Top players are valued at tens of millions of pounds in the transfer market and they earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week. Top players, I presume, have an excellent grasp on the application of maths and physics – trajectory, angles, force etc in kicking a ball so that it lands where they want it to… assuming of course that they have compensated for wind speed and direction and the players around them have the same sense to anticipate where the ball might land. Of course, it also assumes they know the precise hardness of the ground and are intimately acquainted with every dip, curve and bump of the pitch so the ball will bounce in the precise direction of the player they’re aiming to pass the ball to.
And football players have a reputation for being a bit stupid…!
Maybe it’s speed, motivation, fearlessness. The fastest players reach the ball, can tear up the pitch towards the goal and, if they happen to have the right equation in their head, kick the ball into the back of the net. Maybe the best players are those that just don’t stop moving all game, they chase the ball all over the pitch and create a headache for the opposition, freeing up other players to grab the ball (with their feet) and run.
The stuff dreams are made of
One thing football most certainly is not, is a fairy tale. As soon as it was announced that he was leaving, we all thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice if he could win a trophy in his last season with us?’ Of course it would. It would be nice for all the players and the fans too. It’s what we all hope for at the start of every season.
The FA Cup final is scheduled to be played on the same day as Steven Gerrard’s birthday. So of course we had talk of fate, that it was written in the stars that Gerrard’s last game for Liverpool would see him lift the FA Cup trophy on his birthday.
Sadly we were knocked out. Maybe we were so reliant on the romance and fairy tale of it all that we forgot to actually play the game and as a result we lost. But on the plus side; at least he doesn’t have to work on his birthday, so there is a silver lining – besides, he’s already got an FA cup medal or two in his collection.
Saturday's game against Crystal Palace promised to be an emotional affair - the last home game of the season and Gerrard’s last game at Anfield. He came onto the pitch to a guard of honour, he had a speech prepared, the supporters held aloft their supplied square of plastic and created a tributary mosaic and it was geared up to be a fond farewell to the club captain and team legend.
We were destined to win that game and send him off in style. But – and I can’t stress this enough – football isn’t a fairy tale, the outcome is determined by kicking a ball around.
There has been an outpouring of anger and disgust by fans, along with absolute glee from rival supporters, those that like to dismiss his achievements by summing up his seventeen year career at Anfield as one slip and zero premier league titles. There are those that were sick of hearing about Gerrard’s emotional final game – but I’m already sick of hearing about how it was ruined for him. Yes it would have been lovely if we’d won and Gerrard left on a high. But life isn’t a novel, or a film. We can’t manufacture happy endings when the outcome is determined by physics and not emotion.
Were the players to blame? Did the occasion get the better of them? Were they feeling sad because their friend and captain was leaving them? Sometimes people have other things on their mind that are more important than the job in hand. Okay not all of us earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to kick a ball around a pitch, but all across the world, men and women go to work, to earn a living, to feed their family and keep a roof over their head. Sometimes they hate their job, sometimes their mind is on more pressing matters and they just go through the motion, sometimes they make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they’re not good at their job, it just means they’re human. We’re all human, footballers included.
Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool legend. After 17 years, 502 league games and 708 senior appearances, he’s scored 185 goals and won 7 major honours. Losing to Crystal Palace in his final home game doesn’t change any of that and it shouldn’t cause any more outrage or disappointment than any other defeat.
He will be missed, of course, but the game goes on. Yes there’s work to be done at the club but that is the case, with or without Gerrard in the squad. If football is more than just a game, then, for Liverpool at least, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are more than just players – they’re not the first Liverpool legends and they surely won’t be the last.
But maybe if football fans all focused on the random placement of a kicked ball and less on the imagined super powers of the men kicking them, we’d all be a little less disappointed when fairy tales don’t come true.