End Of An Era – Liverpool In Identity Limbo

Quite a bombshell was dropped on Anfield late last night. Rumours had been circulating around the city all day that captain and legend, Steven Gerrard, was to announce his departure at the end of the season after 16 years.

The news was officially announced by the club this morning in a statement. It was true; ‘Mr Liverpool’ was leaving. “The toughest decision of my life”, said Gerrard.

Soccer - Steven Gerrard Filer

The news will spark numerous debates about whether the Whiston-born midfielder was Liverpool’s greatest ever player; over who was better: Gerrard, Scholes or Lampard? There are two schools of thought on Gerrard. One side argues that his loyalty to his boyhood club lost him the chance to win a lot more honours than he accumulated at Anfield and that there is an element of a ‘big fish in a small pond’ about his achievements. The other side would argue his ability to inspire a number of relatively mediocre Liverpool sides to unthinkable triumphs seals his place in football folklore.

None of that really matters, though. It’s pub discussion; something for you and your friends to argue with over a few pints. You’ll read lots of beautiful tributes to the Liverpool captain over the course of the next few days, I’m sure, but what you might not hear about is how this is the end of an era. Not just for Steven Gerrard – that’s a given – but more so for Liverpool Football Club.

Soccer - Carling Cup - Final - Cardiff City v Liverpool - Wembley Stadium

With Jamie Carragher’s retirement back in 2013, Steven Gerrard was the last iconic Liverpool legend left at the club. From David Fairclough to Robbie Fowler and Tommy Smith to Steve McManaman, generation to generation there has always been a home-grown flavour to each and every squad from the birth of the club. With Gerrard’s departure, for the first time ever, Anfield will be bereft of a true scouse hero to cherish.

Of course, he wasn’t always a star but big things were expected of the 18 year-old from an early stage. He played with a ferocity and physicality that belied his tender age. Even then, he was primed for hero status alongside modern greats such as McManaman and Fowler. As he gears up to leave, who then takes his place?

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Third Round - Liverpool v Middlesbrough - Anfield

Jamaican-born Raheem Sterling apart, there are very few talented youngsters currently coming through who you would expect to reach anywhere near Gerrard’s level. 17 year-old Jordan Rossiter has been mentioned as the next ‘Stevie G’ but has made just one appearance for the first team – a League Cup tie v Middlesbrough in which he scored – and looks nowhere near ready for Premier League football at one of the biggest clubs England.

With no club legends remaining, a lack of ‘big name’ players left in the current squad, very few major youth talents making headway and a confused transfer policy, there is a real danger of Liverpool Football Club unravelling. At a time when one of the most iconic of players enters his final days in a Reds’ jersey, that’s the last thing you want to hear but there is major evidence there to support the claim.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Liverpool v Arsenal - Anfield

Doubts remain as to just how good a coach and manager Brendan Rodgers is, too. His handling of Gerrard this season is testament to that. That he cannot find a suitable position for Gerrard without upsetting the entire balance of the side continues to hurt the club’s results. Although it’s not exactly damaged his captain’s long term legacy, one wonders whether Gerrard has had enough and decided calling a halt at this stage was the only viable option left.

It’s an emotional time for the club, no doubt, but any sadness or grief over the decision must not distract from the fact that Liverpool are heading for a massive transitional period in which big decisions must be made and intelligent planning vital. Steven Gerrard’s time as a reds’ player is coming to an end but Liverpool must find a way past that and continue to prosper.