World Cup 2014: Steven Gerrard won’t be slip sliding away
It will take England’s skipper a long time to get over the mistake that cost Liverpool the title but it is ‘parked’ for now, he tells Glenn Moore
It is “The Slip”. Not “Gerrard’s Slip”, just “The Slip”. This is even how Steven Gerrard himself describes the moment his back foot gave way on the Anfield turf as he sought to retrieve a pass he had allowed to run under his foot against Chelsea. He slipped, Demba Ba stole the ball and scored. Liverpool lost and a first League title in 24 years slipped from their grasp.
England are about to depart for Brazil where they still call the 1950 World Cup final home loss to Uruguay ‘The Defeat’. More than six decades on the memory still traumatises a nation, and will prey on their minds this summer. That is what such a sudden reversal of fortune can do to people’s heads.
Gerrard insists he has already ‘parked’ his slip, and ‘moved on’. But when he talks it is clear that he has only done so up to a point. Roy Hodgson will hope as the World Cup nears, the memory of that afternoon at Anfield will further recede.
“I don’t like making mistakes, big mistakes at important times. I’ve made a few, more than a few, through my career. This one hurt a lot – not just The Slip, it was more letting the title slip towards the end because we had come so close and had a terrific season.
“I was disappointed for all the lads, for all the supporters and everyone at the club that we couldn’t hang on and do it. It would have been a monumental achievement to go from seventh to first. But with experience you tend to look back at the positives as well as the negatives. To finish second in the hardest league in the world, and to have the season I’ve had personally, was fantastic, but of course The Slip hurts you.
“If I had made that mistake when I was younger, for example when I scored that own goal against Chelsea (in the 2005 League Cup final) when I was 24 – that killed me for a long time.
“You are not experienced enough to know that you can make up for it with time – that the memory will fade away. I would have put myself under an awful lot more pressure then. That’s not to say that I won’t put the same pressure on myself to make up for this one but I have learned to cope better with setbacks through age.”
Gerrard said he had spoken to Steve Peters, the sports psychologist who works with Liverpool and is with England for their World Cup campaign, about the incident, but stressed he also discussed ‘the good things’ with Peters. He added: “It’s not just about the one case that I’ll dwell on for a long time, but I suppose having Steve there is a bit of a help in dealing with it.”
It was, he went on, beneficial that he now had a World Cup to occupy him. “I would otherwise be sitting on a sun lounger, wondering back to the last three or four games of the season, keeping going over and over where it’s gone wrong and asking myself why and where and driving myself potty. I’ve got to park The Slip at the back of my mind and forget about it for the time being because I’ve got a huge tournament coming up. Once you start playing and training different things come up to think about, for example, Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica. Those are the things on my mind, on my focus, I’ve got to make sure for everyone’s sake that I park the memory. I can’t change anything. I’ve got to try and perform as well as I can for everyone.”
“Is there anybody who has not slipped at any time in their life? The difference is I did it at a bad time and at a bad place, at a bad moment.
“If I had done a bad back pass, scored an own goal, or done my job wrong it would have really beaten me up. I keep saying to myself, how, where and why? There are no answers because it was a slip.
“Was it to do with my boots? Who knows? Who knows? But it was so cruel because of the timing – with three games to go. We were top of the league. Of course it’s cruel, it’s unfair but that’s football, that’s life. I’m not feeling sorry for myself.
“I will learn an awful lot from The Slip, the last three or four games – the whole campaign. It’s taken me until I’m 33 years of age to get that experience of a real genuine title race. Being there until the end, the last game. What’s that going to do for the likes of Raheem Sterling and the young players in the squad to get that experience at a young age?
“I think the future is so bright for Liverpool at the moment. I wish I was 23. I believe that the hurt and the pain – not just for myself but for everyone, the players and the staff, I think [will help ensure] the next two or three years are going to be magnificent for Liverpool. That is my prediction and I hope it comes true.”
“My family don't get involved with the football. Alex [Curran, his wife] is clueless when it comes to football and none of my girls are interested so I had to deal with it myself. But I don't want anyone thinking I'm a young, naïve, insecure person who goes home and cries in his bedroom. I'm 33 years of age with 100-and-odd caps and 600-and-odd appearances. I'm big enough and brave enough to take it on the chin. I take responsibility for The Slip and the damage it's done. It wasn't the first mistake I've made. I've made many and I've got over them and I'll prove to everybody in this World Cup that I'm fit, fresh and ready to perform.”
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