Belfast Telegraph

End of an aura... now Brendan Rodgers must take centre stage

By Steven Beacom

The Kop had just saluted Steven Gerrard for one final time. The reception for Liverpool's greatest was long, loud and filled with love.

Gerrard had always provided these fans with hope in their hearts. Now here he was giving them all lumps in their throats as they watched him wave farewell.

Saturday's lap of honour at Anfield continued as the Liverpool skipper made his way towards the Centenary Stand where he was greeted by yet more applause and another mighty roar.

This was a stunning send off for a favourite son, set for a new life in America.

Accompanied by his three young daughters, Gerrard halted the emotional farewell for a few moments to conduct an interview with LFC TV.

As he spoke, everyone else on the pitch paused... from his soon to be former team-mates, all wearing number eight shirts in tribute, to manager Brendan Rodgers and his staff. They did not want to stride ahead.

They all knew this was Gerrard's day.

His last one on the stage he made his own with so many uplifting performances.

And as he had done so often during 17 years as a first team player at the club, most memorably when winning European and FA Cups, it was only right that Gerrard led the way.

Interview over, he took his place at the head of the parade around the stadium again with the rest following behind the man regarded as Mr Liverpool, THE dominant figure at the club.

Once he finishes his playing career in England at Stoke on Sunday, Gerrard will swap the Liverpool strip with a liver bird on his chest for LA Galaxy colours.

And the Merseyside outfit will have to look for inspiration from elsewhere.

At Anfield at the weekend, as Crystal Palace outplayed Liverpool to win 3-1, there was precious little of that quality on show from the home side.

Even at Gerrard's leaving do, the Liverpool players failed to come up with a parting gift, as was the case a few weeks earlier when they failed to perform in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa, putting an end to dreams of a Wembley finale on the captain's 35th birthday.

With inspiration lacking on the pitch, it will have to come off it and that means the spotlight falling on Rodgers.

Quite correct to let Gerrard take the lead on Saturday, now the Ulsterman must take centre stage himself and provide hope for fans who feel bereft of it having witnessed the end of an aura.

In the latter months of last season a song hailing the Carnlough native was often chanted with gusto by supporters, thrilled to see their side play spectacular football and challenge for the title.

On Saturday the Ulsterman's number was heard only once and truth be told it was low key and lack-lustre.

He still has the backing of the American owners, but after a disappointing campaign, he doesn't have total support on the Kop.

The main reason for that is the signings during his time at the club, since becoming boss in 2012.

Losing Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer was obviously a big blow, but they did gain £70 million from the sale only to throw it away again on questionable quantity rather than genuine quality.

In the last three years, only Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge could be regarded as transfer hits, though the latter misses so many games with injury he brings as much frustration as firepower.

Rodgers is on a transfer committee at Anfield. Given that he faces the most testing season of his Liverpool career, and that his neck will be on the line if things go wrong early next season, surely he would be well advised to ask for more control on who joins the club in the summer. Rodgers, an excellent coach and tactically astute, needs to do the job on his terms, not those of others on a committee who have failed so miserably far.

Come August the heat will be on.

It's vital recruitment is spot on before then.

Sorting out Raheem Sterling's future and getting more from too many under performing current stars are other priorities.

Gerrard is going. He won't be around to rescue the team anymore... someone else must become the main man at the club... over to you Brendan.

Belfast Telegraph


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