Yeah that’s right, internet. It’s another blog about Steven Gerrard.
The World Wide Web is full of these. Thoughts on Gerrard’s career, Gerrard’s character, Gerrard’s place amongst the best players of his generation, or whether he even has a place amongst them. Plenty gave up writing words about him long ago though, with page, Twitter and Instagram account now filled with memes or Vines of his traumatic tumble against Chelsea which so derailed Liverpool’s title bid last season.
Perhaps many will grow up thinking that’s all Gerrard was – that falling, fading midfielder desperately grasping for the ball and Demba Ba. There are those who’ve already grown up enough to know better who are only too keen to enforce that belief, after all.
But of course he’s been so much more over a career of highs and lows; a career which will see his last ever appearance at Anfield in Saturday’s Premier League clash against Crystal Palace.
As a club, Liverpool are often accused of letting emotion get in the way of things, to allow it to constantly weigh on every act and deed of the club and players.
It is something that the media have bought into, of course. Just think about how many times you’ve heard the phrase ‘an emotional night at Anfield’ and then compare it how many times you have (or haven’t) heard the same thing about Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates Stadium. It just doesn’t sound right.
With Gerrard at centre of things – as he was for all of this century – that emotion had its symbol. There it was in human form.
How could it not be all about him? Here was the local lad who had risen from the stands to the Academy to the first team to the captaincy. Throw in his own personal connection with the club’s darkest hour (Gerrard’s cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest person killed at Hillsborough, he was 10) and you have the heart, soul and body of the club. When Liverpool won, he won. When Liverpool lost, he lost.
Of course other clubs have the stories of local lads and Academy products making good, and they turned Manchester United’s into a film. But unlike at United where success came easily for a while, the Gerrard story has been a constant effort to keep the club up there with the big boys, and to keep them relevant when the prizes are being handed out.
Without wishing to sound disrespectful to others, Liverpool could very easily be considered a Newcastle United or an Aston Villa right now, but they are bigger than those clubs and the likes of Tottenham and Everton because of the efforts of Gerrard to keep them in touching distance of the elite.
With him heading off to Los Angeles, a new approach will be needed.
Liverpool will no longer have their ready-made, Red-blooded scapegoat, meaning that the pressure shifts firmly onto the shoulders of manager Brendan Rodgers.
With Gerrard’s departure goes the last tangible link to Anfield’s famed ‘Boot Room’ days, with the then teenage midfielder involved with training with the first team squad when it was still overseen by Roy Evans – that great club servant who worked with Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran.
Gerrard made his debut in the same month in 1998 that Evans left his role as joint-manager in that disastrous experiment conducted with Gerard Houllier, and he’s been there ever since.
Without him, Liverpool’s connection to the past is gone. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Whilst it’s true that prospective new signings won’t exactly get the same level of buzz from meeting the 24-year-old club captain Jordan Henderson – with his 20 England caps and his 2012 League Cup – as they would have got from being given a tour of the Melwood training ground by Gerrard, this is where Rodgers can really stamp his authority on the club.
The Northern Irishman deserves a Gerrard-less season to see if his vision for Liverpool is indeed the correct one, with a tigerish midfield patrolled by Henderson and Joe Allen and perhaps James Milner able to lay the foundations for the way he really wants to play. If it really is about the team and not the individuals, it’s time to prove it.
Liverpool will have to move on without Gerrard, and when the dust settles and the tears have been wiped from eyes they might just find that they are moving in the right direction, even if this doesn’t feel like the right time to think about that.
First comes Crystal Palace on Saturday, and Stoke City away next week.
And there’ll be a lot more words about Gerrard on the internet between now and then.
Read more from Mark Jones