World Cup 2014: A sense of loss pains Steven Gerrard

It’s been an awful time for England’s leader who saw the title slip away from Liverpool and now knows he has underperformed here

The look in Steven Gerrard’s eyes told the story. There was a sense of cold desolation behind them. Gerrard, a deeply thoughtful individual, always talks of not being left with regrets when the battle has been waged and yet here he was, flooded by them.

He talked the talk, as he has learned to do in the two years as permanent England captain which have brought out some of the personality in him. “Big learning curve... analyse the game... a cruel level...” A conversation which began with English chroniclers grew into a scrum, as the foreign legion piled in, lifting their microphones over the top. They did not notice that this man was operating on autopilot.

The notion of what feelings he might have awoken to this morning have certainly been on that reflexive mind of his. After the defeat to Italy, he took some of the younger England players aside to tell them exactly how it feels on the morning after your World Cup hopes have been crushed. “I have been there,” he said this week. “I know what that feeling is about. That is the feeling that I don’t want to come on Friday morning...”

But his sense of loss runs deeper than it did after Bloemfontein or Gelsenkirchen. It was a mere 70 days ago – and somehow a lifetime – that Gerrard gathered the Liverpool players together on the Anfield turf, in the emotional aftermath of the 3-2 win over Manchester City and, with a title in sight, told them that their next journey to Norwich City was as significant as Istanbul, 2005. “This does not slip.” What has unfolded since reveals how football can lift you to the most incredible heights, knock you to the floor and then kick you while you’re down there. As if the fateful slip against Chelsea two weeks later were not punishment enough – allowing Demba Ba to score and cleave Liverpool’s title hopes – it was the hairline brush of a ball across Gerrard’s head which set Luis Suarez onside to score Uruguay’s winner in Arena da Sao Paulo. Gerrard beat Edinson Cavani to the header they both leapt for but first is not enough when the contact is not emphatic.

Some of the abuse Gerrard received on social media as Thursday’s fate unravelled revealed much about the tribalism we see when England play. He did not manage to assert himself on the midfield. He did not play well. Gerrard has been England’s most consistent player across these past two years but football being football there are never guarantees. The abuse allowed no appreciation of that, and certainly no space for tactical nuance.

What we have actually witnessed here in the course of the past few weeks is a recognition by England’s opponents of what a dangerous creator Gerrard can be in the new regista role which Roy Hodgson first designated for him at the 2012 European Championships. Against the Italians, Marco Verratti was billeted to press Gerrard, preventing him from moving the ball quickly and setting off the transitions which would allow England to move from defence to attack. Against the Uruguayans, Cavani played that same role. When the Uruguayan fawning over Oscar Tabarez had finished in the press conference late on Thursday – El Maestro, the journalists call him – the coach got down to talking about the key tactical component of his nation’s win. It was the job Cavani had done, quashing Gerrard’s passes. “In England, we have been talking all about [Andrea] Pirlo and Luis Suarez. It seems that in Italy and Uruguay they were talking all about Gerrard,” said Rafael Benitez, who predicted in these pages that the Uruguay game would hinge on them not letting Gerrard play.

 “Small details” as Benitez likes to say, have revealed Gerrard’s role as a subtly effective motivator here: a role which he has had to grow into for England. It was James Milner who said in a discussion of Gerrard’s captaincy a few years ago that “not everyone has to be a shouter” and he has required some of the legendary fight he learned on Huyton’s Bluebell estate to muscle his way to the leadership role. Fabio Capello and Hodgson have both seemed more mesmerised with John Terry. When the squad processed out on to the London Colney training pitches in March 2010 for Gerrard’s first session as interim leader, the Liverpudlian was only at the front by a short head. The deposed Terry was right on his shoulder. If Terry’s is the Tony Adams school of captaincy – he openly confronted Capello in Rustenburg four years ago – Gerrard’s is in the Bobby Moore mould, and no one needs reminding where he took the English nation.

It was in response to the question of whether he gives banter back to Suarez that Gerrard said a few days ago he is “more of a listener”.

But his leadership has worked in subtle ways these past few weeks: the quiet word in Wayne Rooney’s ear in the Sao Paulo tunnel, and an arm wrapped around him, before they walked out on Thursday. The team huddle he instigated before the match in Manaus. “It was just a few reminders,” he said of the huddle. “In these international games the moment you leave the dressing room to the moment you kick off there is quite a bit of faffing about, handshakes and pictures and it is quite a big chunk of time so it was just to give some reminders. If you look at the result it maybe didn’t work but at least I have left no stone unturned.”

The tragedy of these past 70 days has been that neither of the teams Gerrard attempted to lead to accomplishments was strong enough to take the final step. It was Liverpool’s defence across the course of a season, rather than Gerrard’s slip, which put paid to a first title in 24 years. And it is the same story for England. In consecutive games, they were aware of the opposition danger man, talked and prepared for him but lacked the defensive class to deal with him.

Gerrard feels time’s breath on his shoulder now. “When you get to this age you want to try to appreciate and savour every moment, achieve everything that is in your grasp,” he said this week. “It is my last World Cup that’s for sure – 100 per cent – and my time is running out as an England player. So I want to try and grasp as many good memories as I can.” He told the young players this week that it would be a long and frustrating summer if they went home early and that getting over it “can take an awful long time”. England awoke to a sense of loss yesterday but Gerrard was dealing with a tragedy.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little