Why do I support Liverpool FC? I guess you could say that it is my Mum’s fault. She ‘liked’ Emlyn Hughes in the 1970s. So my brother and I became reds, all the way down here on the Isle of Wight. In our childhood we were restricted to watching Liverpool from afar, the likes of Hughes, Keegan, Souness, Dalglish, Barnes, Beardsley, McManaman, Rush and Fowler graced our TV screens. They were eventually joined by a young man named Steven Gerrard. My brother has made the occasional trip to Anfield to watch Liverpool play, but my best memories have been of watching Liverpool on TV; the Gerrard Final at the Millennium Stadium and a certain night in Istanbul.
As it became clear that the 2014-15 season would be Stevie G’s last at Liverpool it appeared that a combination of circumstances might allow me to see one of his last appearances in a Liverpool shirt.
The season progressed and gradually Liverpool’s European and domestic ambitions fell away. There would be no Wembley for Gerrard this season, nor a repeat of the previous season’s challenge for the PL title. Liverpool’s last game would be against Stoke City FC at the Britannia Stadium.
Thanks to the generosity of a relative my sons and I found ourselves at the Britannia on the 24th May 2015 – albeit amongst the Stoke supporters. On the way to the match those on the local radio station seemed concerned that the match should not be the Steven Gerrard show. They had their own local hero to celebrate – the Stoke and England legend Gordon Banks. As it turned out there was no danger of that.
There was no guard of honour, no plaudits, simply a game against a team who had nothing to lose – Stoke were guaranteed a 9th place finish whatever the result. They played with skill and freedom, easily overwhelming a Liverpool team who seemed lethargic and short of ideas. Five unanswered goals in the first half – the Stoke fans couldn’t believe it. Neither could we.
The introduction of Ibe and Toure at the beginning of the second half seemed to steady things. Ibe was able to make some telling runs into the Stoke area from the left hand side but there was no end product. I saw Coutinio kick the electronic advertising panels in frustration after an attempt which failed to bear fruit.
Eventually Ricky Lambert was brought on – the only recognized striker to play for Liverpool that day. It was somehow fitting that the boyhood Liverpool supporter should provide the assist which allowed the Liverpool captain to score his last goal for the club.
To their credit the Stoke fans stood and applauded. Everyone in the ground knew that this was too late to influence the result, but that Gerrard deserved something from the game, even if Liverpool the team did not.
The final act of the game was the introduction of Peter Crouch ex of Liverpool who wasted little time in scoring Stoke’s sixth and in the process broke the Premier League record for headed goals.
I saw reference in the media that at the end of the match Gerrard “couldn’t wait” to get off the field. I can only report what I saw. At the final whistle our captain shook hands with each of the Stoke players, each of the officials and applauded the Stoke supporters from the center circle before leaving the field. He was the last Liverpool player to leave the pitch, professional to the last minute of his last game.
Looking back, the Liverpool performance that day was a reflection of this season. A team without strikers urged on by a captain desperate for success for his beloved club but no longer at the height of his powers. In many instances he has carried the team – it speaks volumes that someone who has been moved into a more defensive midfield position should turn out to be our top scorer with 9 PL goals.
He may not have been superhuman, but Steven Gerrard was already a Legend before this disappointing season started. The frailties of the 2014-15 LFC squad can do nothing to diminish that.
“Steven Gerrard is our captain,
Steven Gerrard is a red,
Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool,
A scouser born and bred”