Having just overseen Liverpool’s most convincing result of a fairly messy season – a 4-1 win over Swansea City in which two of his much-criticised summer signings had found the net – Brendan Rodgers was facing the Sky Sports cameras.
There were questions on those scorers Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno, but before long an often-discussed subject reared its head. “Was this result all the more significant because you achieved it without Steven Gerrard?”
And therein lies the biggest, although by no means the only, issue which has faced Liverpool throughout this campaign. Rodgers has been questioned over why he has opted to start Gerrard more often than not, but when he’s rested him he’s been questioned about that, too.
Such is the power and authority that Gerrard has wielded at Liverpool for the whole of this century and a little bit of the last one that that questioning has been inevitable, just as it is now inevitable that there will be millions of Liverpool supporters unable to comprehend their club without him.
Because make no mistake, the modern Liverpool – a Liverpool which has rallied against mediocrity, and battled hard to resist the slide into becoming an Aston Villa, a Newcastle United or even a Tottenham Hotspur – has been all about Gerrard. He has been the club and the club has been him.
There are 10s, 50s, possibly three figures of an amount of average players who have passed through Liverpool during Gerrard’s time, and how many of them owe their elevated status and possibly even a medal or two to their captain? He lifted Liverpool to a level they didn’t deserve to be at time and time and time again. Then should they fall short of that level, he’d be the scapegoat.
All of that has to take its toll, especially given that the lowest point of his career came at the back end of last season when an unlikely league title slipped away and coupled with the inevitable influence of Father Time.
Gerrard’s decision to announce that he is leaving Liverpool has prompted the obvious evaluations of him as a player, some positive and some negative, but there is little doubt that he was the best available option to Liverpool over these 17 years in the first team.
Some wanted him to be a Xavi, an Andrea Pirlo, a Zinedine Zidane, but he couldn’t be any of them. Call it a lack of football intelligence if you want, but Gerrard being the swashbuckling, Roy of the Rovers-type figure he was has been exactly what Liverpool have needed. Now it is time for something different.
The Reds won’t be able to replace him – just as they have found that replacing Luis Suarez is impossible – but they can now go in a different direction.
Gerrard’s displays from the deep-lying midfield role last season hinted that he could play on there for years to come, but the key to that team was Suarez. He created an all-out attacking approach which Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and others bought in to. The defensive side of Gerrard’s game wasn’t really a problem because if the opposition scored three Liverpool would just score four.
That was never going to be a long-term plan, and has gone out of the window with the absences of Suarez and Sturridge. Gerrard struggled in the position in this season’s diluted Liverpool, hence the return of Lucas Leiva from the wilderness.
Recruiting a strong defensive midfielder in the mould of a Nemanja Matic (easier said than done) should be Liverpool’s priority now, but not before they bid farewell to a man who has done so much for the club.
The next five months are going to be filled with tributes to Gerrard, so much so that they will annoy those who aren’t of a Liverpool persuasion.
Give those people the chance to play for the club they love, though, and they would imagine having a career like the one Gerrard had for Liverpool – which was only missing a league title.
That box will forever remain unticked, and that’ll perhaps make him a failure in the eyes of some. You get the feeling that they are sort of missing the point, though.
The time is right for Gerrard to bow out of English football, and English football should be thankful to have had him.