James Lawton: Gerrard deserves place among the Liverpool legends

Jamie Carragher was no doubt awash with adrenalin and relief when he claimed his team-mate Steven Gerrard was the best player ever to pull on the red shirt of Liverpool. He had, after all, just watched Gerrard destroy Napoli with such single-handed authority and power he might have been a combination of Batman and Roy of the Rovers.

But is Gerrard better than Dalglish, Souness, Smith, Keegan, Rush, Callaghan, Hansen, Barnes, St John, Hunt and, for a few electric seasons, Michael Owen? It is a formidable roll call of extraordinary ability, and achievement, even when you exclude the man many Merseysiders will go to their graves believing was the best of them all: the legendary Billy Liddell.

For those of us who didn't see the Scotsman there is certainly no lack of glowing testament to his consistent brilliance along the wing. There are also two nuggets of evidence suggesting he indeed belonged in the very highest echelon. On the only two occasions a Great Britain team was selected, in 1947 and 1955, Liddell was included – at the expense of the great Sir Tom Finney. Sir Stanley Matthews played on the right in a 6-1 victory and a 1-4 defeat against the Rest of Europe, and in the first game some witnesses claimed they had never seen such wingers.

If Finney ever needed any reassurance after those rejections it would come, generously enough, many years later at the place where Liddell was so revered. Bill Shankly was asked how he would compare an up-and-coming star of the day, Tony Currie of Sheffield United and England, with his former Preston North End team-mate and idol. "Very favourably," Shankly said with due solemnity, "but remember Tommy is in his sixties now. However, I would still play him even in his overcoat."

No doubt Shankly would have loved Gerrard, and especially adored his ability to break open a game with his extraordinary eruptions of power and virtuosity, but then he also put a huge value on craft and guile and a mean fighting instinct. This, surely, would have carried Graeme Souness high on his list. For sheer accomplishment in what they did, Souness, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush and Ian St John would have received plenty of recognition in any assessment made in the shadow of Gerrard's current impact. He said of St John: "If he had been a boxer, as he could have been, St John would have been a middleweight. I love that weight. It has both power and speed."

Any inclination, though, to accuse Carragher of excessive partiality towards a friend and a team-mate, is impressively cautioned by a man who has either seen or played alongside all the contenders for the prize handed to Gerrard last week. Ian Callaghan, who would himself be on the long list of most sound judges, played 857 times for Liverpool, which makes him particularly well placed to bring down the stones from the top of the mountain.

He agrees with Carragher, after drawing up his own short list of Liddell, Dalglish and Gerrard. Still, a hundred questions rise up. Would Gerrard, if uprooted from Anfield, make the kind of impact in Italy that Souness did when he moved there after his superb contribution to Liverpool's achievements in Europe? Would he look quite so outstanding in a team surrounded by the quality that accompanied those such as Dalglish and Rush and Hansen on their journey along the peaks of the game?

Really, who can make such arbitrary judgements? Certainly, though, there is no hardship allowing Carragher his prejudice – and agreeing that he enjoys the company of one of the great Liverpool players.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee