Belfast Telegraph

Experience of Liverpool's Steven Gerrard is needed now more than ever

By Steven Beacom

Steven Gerrard passed out wide. Instead of bombing into the box hoping to connect with the cross, he ambled forward watching play develop. He had seen this movie before. Experience told him that by holding back, the ball might just come his way. It did. Inches inside the box, he pounced. A firm right foot shot later and Liverpool were on their way to a vital victory.

For all the negative talk about Gerrard's age recently, believe it or not, sometimes as a footballer being older actually helps!

The goal on Tuesday night at Leicester was one of those.

Gerrard's strike and general performance in the 3-1 win was the perfect response to all that had gone before.

No surprise there. Gerrard has written and directed more scripts than Quentin Tarantino. The Liverpool skipper had proved a point yet again.

Manager Brendan Rodgers could also argue that Gerrard's display proved him right for leaving the midfielder out of Saturday's game against Stoke, though dropped or rested (that's a debate in itself) it was Gerrard's presence as a late substitute which lifted Liverpool to triumph 1-0 when a scoreless draw was on the cards.

What is beyond doubt is that Gerrard, at 34, remains Liverpool's most influential player.

Bar when Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez lightened the load with their goals, many assisted by the number eight, it's been that way for well over a decade.

When you have carried a team for that long, there will come a time, mentally as much as physically, when you wonder how long you want to keep putting yourself through the strain, which is why Gerrard is taking his time over a new contract offer, put on the table a lot later than it should have been.

Since making his debut 16 years ago, Liverpool's transfer policy has had more misses than hits, continually leading to the former England star having to come up with rescue acts that Superman would think twice about.

Last season the ultimate happy ending was on for Gerrard when a first Premier League crown beckoned... then came that slip against Chelsea and things took a turn for the worse. The departure of Suarez, injury to Daniel Sturridge, defensive problems, Simon Mignolet and new signings failing to settle have all been dished out as reasons for Liverpool's struggles this season. The fact that Gerrard's form has been patchy is another big one.

When he plays well, Liverpool tend to do the same. Up until Tuesday night, selected in a more attacking role, he has rarely shone.

If Liverpool are to have any chance of success in the months ahead, it will be down to Gerrard.

Whether he is at Anfield next year, however, remains to be seen. In the past the feeling on the Kop was that he would stick around no matter what offers were thrown at him. This time Liverpool fans are not so certain. Retiring is an option but unlikely because he believes that he still has much to offer.

Should he exit in the summer it would be a massive blow to Liverpool and Rodgers, whose relationship with his captain has come under scrutiny lately.

Both insist all is well and Brendan is clever enough to know he needs Gerrard fighting alongside him and inspiring team-mates to do the same.

What the Ulsterman doesn't need is for Gerrard to be transferred on his watch. If it were entirely the player's decision, fans would still associate the manager at the time with the move.

Being in the frame for shooting Bambi, even if it wasn't you who fired the gun, is never a good place to be.

Liverpool have made plenty of mistakes with comings and going since Gerrard first wore red. They can't make another here. Quite simply Liverpool do not have enough good players to lose their best one ever. The club must do all that it can to keep him.

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