Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard leaving without Brendan Rodgers consent

niall 4/01/2015
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Brendan Rodgers denies that Liverpool didn't do enough to keep Steven Gerrard at the club, after the captain's decision to leave the club at the end of the season.


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#360view: EPL winter break makes sense

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Louis van Gaal has been particularly outspoken against the amount of Premier League games with Manchester United picking-up over 50 injuries so far.

Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino, Gus Poyet and Paul Lambert: five managers representing a quarter of the Premier League who, during the festive period, voiced concerns over the volume of fixtures played.

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Van Gaal’s criticism was the most vocal, and also the most criticised; traditionalists complaining that the Dutchman has to like it or lump it, as this is English football.

Once upon a time, managers rarely grumbled and just got on with it. However, through a combination of greater overseas influence in the Premier League and the realisation that a winter break has benefitted German, Spanish and Italian football all these years, slowly but surely the idea is becoming more bearable and less blasphemous than before.

The negative effect of playing three games inside seven days (four in 10 once you factor in the FA Cup) is obvious.

If players weren’t picking up niggling injuries, managers – with the exception of Burnley’s Sean Dyche whose decision to start the same XI in three straight games backfired with a number of injuries against Newcastle – rotated their teams across the course to ail weary muscles.

The result of such saw the dynamism and physicality the Premier League prides itself on emerge only sporadically: Tottenham v Manchester United, Chelsea v West Ham and Southampton v Chelsea, for example, were fantastic for 45 minutes and then petered out. 

The packed schedule has also had a consequence on the FA Cup third round ties with Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom all fielding weakened sides yesterday and expect more of the same today from Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, QPR and Stoke.

The magic of the cup becomes more mythological with each passing season, and not for the right reasons.

You can’t blame the managers, why should they be expected to field a first team with such relentless demands placed on the players. At some stage the Premier League and the Football Association will realise that sticking so steadfastly to tradition is proving detrimental to their own products. 

Any fitness or conditioning coach will tell you that the amount of days rest in between matches is conducive to how they perform.

Removing games on December 28 and New Year’s Day and rescheduling them later in the season may cause initial discontent among some fans, but ultimately in the long run, the quality and intensity will be more consistent.

There are concerns that a winter break could be used to promote clubs overseas with exhibition matches like the Dubai Football Challenge.

Reducing the risk of injury and fatigue, and raising the probability of having your best team for all 38 league fixtures, is also an obvious vote winner with any manager.

The continual argument against the winter break – when it is considered as a mechanism to improve the English national team at major tournaments – is that some clubs will instead use it as a window to promote and market their team overseas.

A convention that certainly will appeal to the aggressive capitalism of the Premier League. Exhibitions such as the Real Madrid v AC Milan game at 7he Sevens last week, or Paris Saint-Germain v Internazionale in Marrakech will feature Premier League clubs.

So what? Let them. Place the decision in the clubs’ hands. If they want to hawk their players around the world and risk burnout, that’s their fault, not the league’s. With so many different parties having a vested interest in a winter break, why not give it a try?

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#360view: Steven Gerrard's time is up at Anfield

Alam Khan 3/01/2015
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One of the best: Steven Gerrard had a glittering career at Liverpool.

Influential, iconic and irreplaceable. It is impossible to understate the bond between Steven Gerrard and Liverpool Football Club. “Mr Liverpool” is how Rickie Lambert described his captain and it sums up the standing of the man after Gerrard announced his intention to leave Anfield this summer.

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He first arrived as an eight-year-old and will leave a legend after a rollercoaster 26 years.

Gerrard lived the dream in playing for his hometown club and enjoyed the ultimate ride in trying to revive their fortunes.

Of course, not winning the league title will be an indelible stain on his career, but he should have no regrets over his immense contributions to their cause. 

Defeat was not in his dictionary.

When Liverpool needed a miracle, he often delivered. Like the late goal against Olympiakos in 2004 that took them through to the Champions League last 16 and eventually lifting the trophy with that victory against AC Milan.

Gerrard also scored in Istanbul to spark the comeback from 3-0 down. There was also the strike against West Ham to help them to FA Cup glory in 2006.

He is one of the few who would claim a place in the all-conquering Liverpool side of the 1970s and 80s that ruled England and Europe.

Given that he is probably just behind Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard as the Premier League’s best-ever midfielder, though, I don’t think he would surpass Kenny Dalglish or Ian Rush as Liverpool’s greatest player.

But it’s close. Where that duo sparkled when surrounded by world-class stars, Gerrard stood out in sides that were not of the same calibre. He was extraordinary, an embodiment of footballing spirit, strength and skill.

But his time at Anfield was up. Perhaps he never really recovered from the slip against Chelsea in April that saw Demba Ba score and Liverpool’s title bid suffer a decisive blow, or leading England to failure at the World Cup.

The sad truth this season is that he did not dictate games as he once did, nor suit a system that should be fuelled by youthful energy and pace. At 34, his mind may have been willing, but the body was not.

Sentiment does not guarantee success and Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Swansea should be an indication of the future. 

Jordan Henderson cannot fill his boots, no one can, but he needs to be given the chance to grow and rise to the challenge.

He led by example in that impressive win last Monday and perhaps there was a sense of reality, and inevitability, as Gerrard watched the fluent, fast-paced link-up play between Henderson, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling from the bench.

His decision to go is right, for him and the club. Liverpool should not expect him to be their saviour every time and others must step up.

Gerrard’s options will be endless. MLS looks most likely with Los Angeles and New York probably most attractive from a footballing and family perspective.

The Gulf could be another option, but what about Serie A where the pace is slower and Gerrard could enjoy one last hurrah?

How one of the Milan clubs could do with someone to hold their midfield together and perhaps ignite them as a force again.

For the next five months, though, Gerrard should enjoy the acclaim and adulation as he bows out of English football. 

It will be well deserved.

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