By Andrew Misra
It can be debated until one is blue (or red) in the face, but it’s been done time and time again and will continue to be. Let’s accept that both number 8s that influenced British football most strongly in the ’00s were fantastic players.
They’re now showing promising signs of taking that on-pitch form into the dugout with them.
Instead of becoming entrenched in the ancient debate of who is better, let’s look at a couple of moments – one you’ll have heard of, and one that perhaps you don’t remember quite as readily.
Fourteen years ago to the day, if you’d have said that the commentary of Martin Tyler merged with the Scottish overtones of Andy Gray would have led to one of the greatest sounds ever broadcast, you would probably have been declared illogical, at best.
Steven Gerrard’s career never did quite follow the script, but it was always worth making noise about.
8th December 2004, Anfield
Liverpool welcomed Olympiakos in their final Champions League Group fixture, needing a 1-0 win or victory by two clear goals to progress to the knockout stages.
The Reds fell 1-0 behind after a Rivaldo free-kick in the 26th minute.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle got one of the three required soon after the interval. A frustrating period followed before Neil Mellor turned in the second, but with just nine minutes left, Liverpool needed inspiration.
In the 86th minute, something spectacular happened in the L4 postcode. The Anglo-Scottish voiceover would reverberate around many more postcodes for the next decade.
“Mellor, lovely cushioned header for Gerraaaaaaaaaarrrdddd-”
“Ohhhh ya beautyyyyy, what a hit son, what a hit”.
The shivering beauty of these sounds coalescing is something that cannot be fully conveyed.
A cushioned header has never been quite so lovely since.
“If you’re talking about one individual goal that was so important for the club, it’d have to be Olympiakos” – Steven Gerrard
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after the Champions League triumph in Istanbul that ‘Stevie G’ fully appreciated what that right boot of his had managed.
8th December 2018
It’s three days until Liverpool face Napoli in their final Champions League Group C fixture. The atmosphere at Anfield will be as electric as those famous nights always have been.
The scenario is as follows:
Liverpool must win to have any chance of progress. If Paris win at Red Star Belgrade, Liverpool must win 1-0 or by two clear goals. Sound familiar?
If Liverpool, Paris and Napoli all finish on nine points, the English club would finish first on the three-way head-to-head, with second place depending on the scoreline at Anfield.
If Liverpool lose and Red Star manage to upset Paris, Jurgen Klopp’s men are out of Europe. Full stop.
If in need of inspiration against Diego Maradona’s beloved boys from Naples, there’s one man the Reds can still turn to for guidance…
4th November 2010, Anfield
Not the premier European stage, but Liverpool trailed to Napoli 1-0 at halftime in a Europa League Group K tie. Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi had put the visitors ahead.
Playing a rotated side, Gerrard was left out of the starting lineup. He was swiftly summoned at the interval.
75th, 88th and 89th-minute goals turned the game around for the Reds.
The skipper got them all.
His first resembled a slide tackle on keeper Morgan de Sanctis after intercepting the backpass of ex-Liverpool fullback Andrea Dossena.
The second was a penalty, before coolly chipping in a third to complete the hat-trick.
Captain Fantastic had struck once again, as Anfield belted out:
“Steve Gerrard, Gerrard
He can pass the ball forty yards
He’s big and he’s f*****g hard
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard”
On the 27th April 2014, the infamous ‘Gerrard slip’ led to that chant being irrevocably besmirched by fans around the country.
From Olympiakos to Istanbul to the ‘Gerrard Final’ against West Ham in the FA Cup. From that emotional rollercoaster in the 2013/14 season where he nearly drove Liverpool to the Premier League title he so dearly craved, to the moment of madness that saw him sent off just 38 seconds after coming on against Manchester United in one of his final appearances at Anfield.
Love him or hate him, ‘Stevie G’ was a player of shape-shifting moments.