Steven Gerrard can cap breathtaking sporting year with Liverpool title win
Steven Gerrard's show of emotion after the final whistle underlined how desperately the Liverpool captain wants to win the title
If there was ever any doubt about what a Premier League title would mean to Liverpool’s long-serving captain, Steven Gerrard underlined the significance of winning his – and the Reds’s – Holy Grail after the final whistle on Sunday.
Gerrard endured, in his own words, the longest 90 minutes of his career after Liverpool held on to secure three points against title rivals Manchester City at Anfield and reinforce that they are the real deal this season.
In the past 12 months, sport has delivered a number of satisfying fairy tales. Andy Murray became Britain’s first male winner of Wimbledon in 77 years, whilst Brian O’Driscoll ended his Ireland career with Six Nations glory.
And after Sunday’s 3-2 victory, Gerrard is a mere four games away from lifting the Premier League title as Norwich City, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United stand in the way of Liverpool and their skipper.
Whatever happens in those four “cup finals”, Gerrard provided one of the moments of the Premier League season as he delivered a rousing speech in a huddle with his Liverpool team-mates after the final whistle at Anfield.
That was the longest 90 minutes I’ve probably ever played in. I kept flashing back to how long the clock was taking in cup finals and big games that I’ve played in before
When Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish in May 2012, the Northern Irishman was a central figure in the fly-on-the-wall documentary, Being Liverpool. Gerrard’s rallying call is sure to feature in any sequel. It was Hollywood drama at its best.
“This does not f*****g slip. We keep going. Listen! Listen! We go to Norwich. Exactly the same,” roared Gerrard over the jubilant celebrations of the Anfield crowd.
But this wasn’t Any Given Sunday. This was the Sunday where Liverpool took a huge step towards the Premier League title – and Gerrard knew it. He was close to tears as the Reds remembered the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough 25 years ago in fitting style.
Chelsea remains a tough challenge but City were the side that struck fear in the heart of the Liverpool captain. Gerrard was right to be nervous, too, with the visitors utterly dominant as David Silva’s strike and a Glen Johnson own goal cancelled out first-half efforts from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel.
It was no surprise to see Gerrard so emotionally charged when Mark Clattenburg called time on proceedings. The Champions League-winning captain appeared helpless as Liverpool’s title dreams began to evaporate before Vincent Kompany’s hashed clearance led to Coutinho’s winner.
And the 33-year-old’s post-match interview with Sky Sports’s Geoff Shreeves was refreshingly honest after all the title-chasing denials from the Liverpool camp in recent weeks.
“It was emotional but we need to keep calm,” Gerrard said.
“We’ve got four big games to come but that meant so much, especially when they got back into the game. We feared the worst at that point.
“I think we’ve shown that we’re going to go to the wire and all the way, nothing is won yet but that was probably the biggest statement we’ve made so far.”
Gerrard continued: “That was the longest 90 minutes I’ve probably ever played in. I kept flashing back to how long the clock was taking in cup finals and big games that I’ve played in before.
“It felt like the clock was going backwards in that game. I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment. We’ve got four big cup finals left.
“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment because that is such a big result for us. We’ve got four cup finals left.”
Appearing to catch himself after veering away from Liverpool’s tactics with the media over past month, Gerrard bullied Shreeves in the same fashion that he has dominated many of his midfield contemporaries in the Premier League this season.
Asked if the title was Liverpool’s to lose, a dead-pan Gerrard replied: “Nothing is ours. Nothing is ours.”
Quizzed on what he said in the Liverpool huddle, Gerrard added: “None of your business,” before slightly relenting, “I think you know what I said Geoff. The important thing is not to get carried away with the result.”
If the Liverpool captain won’t admit it, the football fraternity will: sporting history awaits Gerrard.
Just this spring, Ireland had to contend with a nerve-wracking final couple of minutes at Stade de Francais, which saw O’Driscoll’s Six Nations dream survive by the narrowest of forward-pass margins. It was a worthy end to the career of one of rugby union’s true greats.
Murray described the final game against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last summer as the “toughest game” of his career, with the Serb almost breaking back to deny Britain its champion. Gerrard echoed the Scot’s sentiments on Sunday.
After the “longest game of his Liverpool career”, Gerrard will have to see his side through a few more loops of this rollercoaster Premier League season if the talismanic midfielder is to finally claim the trophy that has eluded him.
Where great champions are involved, there often appears to be a great power at work, destiny. And how fitting would it be for Gerrard to win his club’s Holy Grail 25 years after he lost his cousin on 15 April 1989.