Belfast Telegraph

Steven Gerrard great again, shame about the rest of Liverpool

By Steven Beacom

Steven Gerrard saves Liverpool. We have read this story before. Many, many, many times. Soon the age old tale will end when the greatest footballer to ever wear the liver bird on his chest jets off for a new life in the USA.

For years the question has been asked: What would Liverpool do without Gerrard? The answer, and it is likely to be painful for Kopites, is not too far away. Up until that point, when next season begins, a new question will be posed: Why have Liverpool not moved heaven and earth to keep their inspirational skipper?

Belatedly offering Gerrard a new contract and telling him his game time would decrease dramatically wasn't the ringing endorsement this proud scouser was searching for having retired from England duty to dedicate his final years to the club he loved.

When close friends and ex-team-mates like Jamie Carragher and Danny Murphy talk about Liverpool not doing enough to persuade Gerrard to stay, feelings will persist that the club failed their finest servant, even if the man himself has been extremely gracious about his exit and how it has come about.

Remember he's turning 35 in May, not 45, and as he showed in last night's compelling FA Cup third round tie at AFC Wimbledon, he remains the best player at the club by a distance in just about every way possible... passing, tackling, scoring, creating, even defending... though given the current standard at the back that's not the biggest compliment he'll ever receive.

Without his brilliantly taken double in Liverpool's 2-1 victory, the Merseysiders would have suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in their history.

Can you imagine the pressure heaped on manager Brendan Rodgers had his captain not donned the superhero cape again to rescue his side? Gerrard scored a superb header in the first half and an even better free-kick in the second as the visitors survived a serious scare.

In between the Reds were rocking. As has been the case for much of the campaign, Liverpool were a mess at the back. They weren't up against an awesome outfit like Real Madrid, or even the Wimbledon that won the 1988 FA Cup final...this was AFC Wimbledon from the fourth tier of English football!

Liverpool's results may have improved lately, but how can you say the team has turned a corner when they still can't defend one?

Big Adebayo Akinfenwa took advantage of Simon Mignolet's physical and mental weaknessses, by scoring from a set piece scramble to draw the home side level at the break. A mighty upset was on. Then the genius of Gerrard stepped up to kill the minnows off with his NINTH goal of the season, one more than Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Finished? Not even close. The FA Cup final is on Gerrard's 35th birthday. He deserves to play in it, though he'll probably have to get there all by himself!

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