Steven Gerrard interview: All hail Liverpool's captain fantastic - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Steven Gerrard interview: All hail Liverpool's captain fantastic

Ahead of his testimonial on Saturday, the midfielder talks Sam Wallace through his Anfield highs, lows, near misses...and the one strike that changed the destiny of the club

Steven Gerrard will walk out the tunnel at Anfield on Saturday afternoon as he has done so many times before, although – even taking into account the dramatic highs, and occasional lows, of his career at Liverpool – he admits that this occasion will be especially emotional.

It will be his three young daughters who walk with him on to the pitch of his hometown club, and his team-mates and the opposition, Olympiakos, who form the guard of honour. Almost 15 years after his debut, as he approaches a decade as captain, Gerrard will be honoured with his first testimonial. Anfield sold out weeks ago.

He smiled as he considered the prospect – not least the sense of excitement and anticipation among his family, who he says have been looking forward to it for months. The Gerrard girls have, he says, “had new frocks made and they are getting their hair done”, although they have also been told by dad that they will not be staying up all night at the dinner for 1,000 guests that will follow on Saturday evening.

Anfield can feel like a big family gathering at most home games: raucous, disputatious but with the sense that, when push comes to shove, everyone pulls together. And at the centre of that family for the last generation has been Gerrard. It has not always been easy being the local boy who ended up captaining Britain’s most successful club – and England – but looking back now, at 33, he would not have wanted it any other way.

All the money raised on Saturday from the game, broadcast by BT Sport, will go to his foundation which works with charities on Merseyside, throughout the country and overseas. Gerrard has visited many of the projects and has a clear idea of what is required to help.

“I have been to some different places all round the area,” he says. “It has been a real eye-opener to see how some of these charities run and what they need to keep their heads above water. But also some of the conditions that children and families are in. We have seen some really difficult cases. But when you come away from the places and you see that you have made a big difference and you can help financially, it’s a good buzz.”

Olympiakos have a special place in Gerrard’s history. It was against them that he scored the 86th-minute goal at Anfield in December 2004 that gave Liverpool a 3-1 win, clinching the necessary two-goal margin that saw them through the group stages on their way to winning the Champions League in Istanbul that season. For Saturday, Olympiakos have donated their match fee to charity and have been “superb”, Gerrard says, in playing their role on the day.

As for the memory itself of that night in 2004, it still feels, Gerrard says, “like yesterday”. “When you are in that position and one falls for you it’s make or break at that moment. Luckily for me it was one of the sweetest strikes I have ever hit. Just such a relief to see the net go. If I had to pick my favourite goal for connection and also the reaction of the crowd – that’s the one.

Gerrard celebrates the historic strike against Olympiakos (Getty) Gerrard celebrates the historic strike against Olympiakos (Getty)  

 

“The memory is still so strong. When I look back over my career so far it pops up as one of the main games. And it started the journey to Istanbul. And Andy Gray’s commentary made the goal even better than it was.”

One suspects that Gray’s commentary on Gerrard’s goal – “Oh you beauttttttttty, what a hit, son! What a hit!” – will be played over the Tannoy on Saturday along with a few more  reminders of famous Gerrard  moments over the years. He has won a Champions League title, a Uefa Cup, two FA Cups and three League Cups. Not a bad haul, although there is one major club honour missing.

The club’s 19th league title, their first since 1990, looks like it will not come in Gerrard’s career and although he says he will never stop trying, he has made his peace with the possibility that it could forever elude him.  The current battle to keep the striker Luis Suarez at Anfield, about which Gerrard is outspoken, is a sign of just how hard it will be even to regain Liverpool’s place in the Champions League.

He says: “Sometimes you have to be realistic and say we just fell short [in the league in past years]. Realistically sitting here now we are not one of the favourites to win it this season or the season after but we have to see what happens. I am never going to give up fighting for it. I won’t give up the dream of winning it but I have to be proud and happy with how my career has gone from a personal point of view and also what I have won with the team.

“We had no right to win the Champions League in 2005. We were probably the 10th, 12th best team in the tournament. With a little bit of luck and a bit of desire and determination that made up for the lack of ability. We went and achieved the impossible. A lot of top players all over the world never win the Champions League. I think that’s the best trophy to win in any footballer’s career besides maybe the World Cup.

“I have to be grateful for what I’ve done and not be too upset that I fell a bit short in the Premier League. It hasn’t been through a lack of effort or a lack of trying. In certain seasons we fell short by inches, in other seasons we have been nowhere near it. I have to accept it.”

He has a new one-year extension to his contract which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2015. The shoulder operation in May meant he has had the benefit of a full pre-season to stand him in good stead in a World Cup year.

He will be Liverpool’s longest-serving captain in October, passing the previous record set by Alex Raisbeck more than 100 years ago. What he wants is a “couple more trophies” and one more tilt at the Champions League before he calls time on the unique pressure of being a Liverpudlian  captain of Liverpool.

“I think that pressure helps with your own performances and your own form because you are always striving for the top. When you have that relationship you don’t want to let the fans down. You want to maintain a high standard every time you go out and play.

“But it also has the other effect, too. It’s tough. Liverpool fans are a tough crowd – the expectations and what they demand from players every single game, whether it be the third round of the Carling Cup or the Champions League final, you are expected to  perform the same level. They are only ever happy when they win, the Liverpool fans.

“It does come with pressures and  demands but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t think I would enjoy it if I played at a club where there wasn’t the same demands and pressures. That’s what I enjoy: big games and big pressure situations.”

To celebrate Steven Gerrard’s testimonial BT Sport will donate £1, up to £100,000, for every tweet that includes #thesupportersclub on 3 August between 9am and 9pm. The Supporters’ Club is a fund established by BT Sport to help change the lives of young people in the UK and some of the world’s poorest countries. It will fund the coaches, mentors and teachers to help young people achieve their goals in life.

Fair Kop: Gerrard’s Liverpool career

Debut 29 November 1998, v Blackburn (h), as sub for Vegard Heggem in 2-0 win

First goal 5 December 1999, v Sheffield Wednesday (h) in a 4-1 victory

Season by season

1998-99 13 games 0 goals

1999-2000 31 games 1 goal

2000-01 50 games 10 goals

2001-02 45 games 4 goals

2002-03 54 games 7 goals

2003-04 47 games 6 goals

2004-05 43 games 13 goals

2005-06 53 games 23 goals

2006-07 51 games 11 goals

2007-08 52 games 21 goals

2008-09 44 games 24 goals

2009-10 49 games 12 goals

2010-11 24 games 8 goals

2011-12 28 games 9 goals

2012-13 46 games 10 goals

Honours Champions League 2005; Uefa Cup 2001; FA Cup 2001, 2006; League Cup 2001, 2003, 2012; PFA Player of the Year 2006; FWA Footballer of the Year 2009

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week