27 year-old Liverpool captain and midfield player Steven Gerrard is widely tipped to be the captain of Fabio Capello’s new England team. He is regarded as an automatic choice for the national side and as one of the World’s best players.
Does Gerrard justify the hype?
Steven Gerrard made his debut for Liverpool in 1998 and has been a one club man ever since. He is rightly regarded as a hero by the Anfield fans having scored 52 goals in 290 passion filled appearances for the reds. During that time he has driven Liverpool to two FA Cup wins, two League Cup wins, a UEFA Cup win, and of course, the 2005 Champions League victory over Milan.
On an individual level Gerrard was awarded PFA Player of the season in 2006 and PFA young player in 2001. He is regularly chosen by his fellow professionals in the Premier League team of the year.
Although he has never been able to lead Liverpool to the Premier League title their fans so desire, there is no doubt that Gerrard, who was voted the most valuable player in their successful 2005 Champions League tournament, deserves all the accolades he has been given at club level.
So should he be an automatic choice for England, is he one of the World’s best players, and should he be the captain of the national side?
Gerrard has made 63 appearances for England scoring 12 goals. He made his debut in 2000 and scored his first international goal in the memorable 5-1 demolition of Germany in 2001. He missed the 2002 World Cup through injury, and would prefer to forget the 2004 European Championships. In that tournament it was his very poor back pass late in the game that saw us to lose to France, and he was substituted following an ineffective performance in the game against Portugal in which England were eliminated.
In the 2006 World Cup Gerrard did manage to score three goals in the group stages but was one of many players who ‘went missing’ in the game against Portugal that saw England heading home. Gerrard was one of the three England players who missed during the penalty shoot out.
In 2007, Gerrard skippered the England side in their crucial game against Croatia at Wembley when a 3-2 defeat saw them fail to qualify for the 2008 European Championship finals.
Steven Gerrard is a player who plays with passion. He ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’. For Liverpool this has often been enough to grab a game and his team by the scruff of the neck and pull them kicking and screaming to victory. In international football, passion and drive isn’t enough. Midfield players need to have the subtlety and flair to open up the best defences in the World and Gerrard has never shown he possesses the necessary skills and abilities to do so.
Earlier this season Rafa Benitez substituted Steven Gerrard in the derby game at Everton. The move was greeted with dismay and disbelief by the Liverpool fans, but they forgave Rafa when after Gerrard went off a 1-0 deficit was turned into a 2-1 win. After the game Benitez said that Gerrard had been playing with too much passion. The ‘experts’ on Sky TV have ridiculed the Spaniard for using that phrase. “How can anyone play with too much passion in a Merseyside derby?” they have asked. I understand totally what Benitez meant. Gerrard was running around the field like a headless chicken desperately trying to turn the game around on his own.
When Gerrard plays like that he can regularly over hit passes, try to do too much on his own and occasionally lunge into tackles that are a little ‘x’ rated. In that game against Everton, Gerrard was doing all of these things and Benitez was quite right to bring him off.
Much has been made of the partnership between Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the centre of England’s midfield. There has been an ongoing argument about whether they can play in the same team for many years. It hasn’t worked very often, but that is a criticism of the players, who have never reproduced club form in the international arena, rather than it being a physical impossibility for them to play in the same team.
Time and time again Steven Gerrard has failed to perform to the expected levels for England. I believe that at times he has shown himself to be a World class player when playing for Liverpool, but that has never been apparent in an England shirt.
I do not believe that Gerrard should be an automatic choice in the centre of the England midfield and I certainly don’t think he should be captain. Rio Ferdinand oozes class for club and country and would be a fine captain for Capello who likes his captains to lead by example. In the midfield area Gareth Barry of Villa and Jermaine Jenas at Tottenham are having excellent seasons and will be unlucky not to be selected. Ashley Young could well start on the left which would open a position for Joe Cole in the midfield. Owen Hargreaves has been one of England’s best players recently, and unlike Gerrard he produced the performances when they mattered.
I would sum Steven Gerrard up as great player for Liverpool, and a constant disappointment for England.