#2 STEVEN GERRARD
Name: Steven Gerrard
Years at Liverpool: 1998 to present
Signed from: Apprentice
European Cup (2005),
FA Cup (2001, 2006),
UEFA Cup (2001),
League Cup (2001, 2003),
Community Shield (2006),
Super Cup (2001),
PFA Young Player of the Year (2001),
PFA Player of the Year (2006)
The ultimate modern day footballer, Steven Gerrard is fulfilling the dream of every local Liverpudlian. The greatest English player of his generation and arguably one of the best in the world right now, pundits have run out superlatives to describe Liverpool's talismanic midfield powerhouse.
As the inspirational skipper of the Reds he's already lifted both the FA and European Cup and our hopes of adding the Premiership title to this illustrious list rests largely on his shoulders.
Originally spotted by Liverpool scouts as nine-year old, Gerrard's precocious talents were carefully nurtured by Steve Heighway and his staff at the club's centre of excellence. Nothing was going to distract him from his pursuit of the Anfield dream and though growth problems were to restrict his progress at times during his mid-teenage years, his single-minded determination to succeed shone through.
After taking just one look at him in training at the Academy, Houllier immediately promoted Gerrard to Melwood in November 1998 and by the end of the month had handed him his senior debut at home to Blackburn.
After making 13 appearances that season, Gerrard went on to fully establish himself in the side during the 1999/2000 campaign, netting his first goal in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday and collecting his first red card for a foul on his derby debut. Once these occasional bouts of recklessness were eradicated from his game Gerrard set about blooming into the complete midfielder that we know today.
His meteoric progress at club level was rewarded with a first full England cap that year and the following season saw his profile raised several notches more as he performed a key role in Liverpool's unprecedented cup treble success, scoring in the UEFA Cup Final win over Alaves and deservedly walking off with the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
With his influence on the team becoming more and more important, Gerrard was handed the honour of succeeding Sami Hyypia as club captain in October 2003 and how he thrived on the added responsibility.
His role in the unforgettable Champions League triumph of 2005 that followed was pure legendary; from his amazing last-gasp Kop shaker that sealed a passage into the knockout phase at the expense of Olympiacos to the spine-tingling night against AC Milan when he kick-started and orchestrated the miracle of Istanbul.
The sight of Gerrard proudly hoisting the gleaming silver trophy into the Turkish night sky was the cue for tears of happiness to be shed by many a tough Scouser. Bringing home 'number five' meant so much and will never fade from the memory.
In the immediate aftermath of his Ataturk heroics, Gerrard pledged his long-term future to the club, just has he'd done the previous summer in light of annoying speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea, but still the rumours rumbled on.
Liverpool looked to have lost the services of their best player and feelings of anger, disbelief and sorrow were visibly vented on the city streets. But in one of the most amazing u-turns ever performed, the red half of Merseyside awoke the next morning to discover all their Christmases had come at once;
With his future finally resolved, his performances reached even higher standards the next season and another super-human effort in a major cup final confirmed his standing as the heir apparent to Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool's greatest ever player.
Trailing to West Ham in Cardiff, Gerrard snatched the trophy from the Londoners grasp by masterminding another awe-inspiring comeback, setting up one goal and scoring two as the Reds clawed their way back into a game in which they twice looked dead and buried.
His last-gasp leveller at the end of normal time has already passed into FA Cup folklore and the subsequent penalty shoot-out victory ensured Gerrard became only the second player in history, after Stanley Matthews, to have a final named in his honour.
At 26, the undisputed 2006 PFA Player of the Year is showing no signs of slowing down. There's no reason to believe he won't be the fulcrum of this team for a long time to come and it's incredible to think his best days may still be ahead of him.
Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson once described him as 'the most inspirational player in England, bar none,' and if he continues to progress at the rate he has done then, fingers crossed, it must surely be only a matter of time before the much-coveted Premiership title is residing in the Anfield trophy cabinet.
Kenny might still be the king but Stevie is most definitely the prince and if he can get his hands on that one trophy that has so far eluded him then maybe one day soon the crown will be passed over.
Claim to fame: Lifting the European Cup in Istanbul
Did you know? His promising football career was almost brought an abrupt halt as a teenager following an accident with a garden fork
Ian Callaghan on Steven Gerrard: "I think Stevie G without doubt is one of the best players in the world. I think he’s one of the best players that's ever played here, if not the best. He’s just got everything going for him, he’s got pace, power, he can pass the ball around and he scores goals - what more do you want? He’s just an unbelievable player."
MORE @ LIVERPOOLFC.TV
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
#2 STEVEN GERRARD