Sunday, 29 March 2009
DESPITE the frustrating round of international fixtures, it's still a great time to be a Liverpool fan right now.
For the first time in a long time, the boys in Red are regularly in the headlines for all the right reasons.
Much of that positive press has focused on Steven Gerrard - and rightly so.
I've felt for a long time that Stevie is almost taken for granted by many Liverpool fans - and it's easily done.
The Bluebell estate's finest has been at Liverpool for 20 years now - and it's coming on for 11 years since the 28-year-old made his debut for the Reds.
He's played so well, so many times that it's almost overlooked. And just because he's doesn't waltz around with a beaming grin all the time, people have, in the past, questioned his commitment.
This season, even by his own standards, he has been sensational. He's revelled in the deep-lying forward role, so much so that he's a decent shout to win the Golden Boot - he's just two goals behind Premier League top scorer Nicolas Anelka.
But not only that, he's grown into the captain's armband.
Jamie Carragher has for long time looked a more obvious choice to skipper the side - he's more vocal, he's an organiser and, by Gerrard's own admission, Carra is more of a student of the game, watching hours of football from all over the world.
In the past Gerrard has led by example, almost hauling the club onto his back and struggling over the finish line on his own at times (Istanbul, West Ham in the FA Cup final).
That's not to be sniffed at, of course. But where perhaps he has been lacking in the past is picking up the players around him.
His body language has often been a give away of his frustrations with players less gifted than him (that's most of the world then!).
And as regular visitors to Anfield will be aware, it hasn't been uncommon for him to berate players on the pitch for not doing what he would have done.
His answer has often been to sort it all out himself - now, it seems, he's thinking about the team a lot more.
Witness the huddle before we thrashed the Mancs, or his comments in the press since, particularly in singling out the full backs for praise.
It's a sign that he's continuing to mature, that he's hitting his peak, and, crucially, that he believes in the players and the staff that are around him.
Contrast that with Cristiano Ronaldo, another player, like Gerrard, often referred to as the best player in the world.
Don't get me wrong, he is a phenomenal talent. And, no doubt, if he was playing on the wing for Liverpool I wouldn't hear a word said against him...such is the fickle nature of football.
But a Manchester United-supporting mate of mine likes to actually compare Ronaldo and Gerrard. And in his opinion, the Old Trafford favourite is the better of the two.
Not for me. Not only is he too easily frustrated (see United's last two matches), too prone to a dive (although Gerrard doesn't mind the odd one or two) and ridiculously self-obsessed, he just doesn't possess the leadership or the versatility of Gerrard.
Let's not forget, Gerrard has played right back, right wing, centre midfield and up front for Liverpool. And you can add left wing for England to that impressive list.
Ronaldo. On the wing and up front.
And what about attributes? Ok, Ronaldo has more tricks up his sleeve. But Gerrard can tackle better, is more determined and doesn't go missing when the going gets tough.
So there's only one winner - and he doesn't come from Portugal.
While we're on the subject of comparisons, I had to laugh at the furore over Fabio Capello labelling Wayne Rooney "crazy" for his reaction to being sent off at Fulham.
Out came "experts" including Danny Mills telling all who would listen on Radio Five that to take away the aggression from Rooney's game would take away the player.
Look at Gerrard. In earlier years at Anfield he had a bigger stamp collection than a lifelong philatelist. Remember when he sawed Gary Naysmith in half? Or when he took out George Boateng?
The point is you don't see him doing it now. And is he any less of player? No, he's in the form of his life. He's learned to control and channel his aggression - Rooney can do the same.
Both have amazing natural talent and determination, unlike, it has to be said, Danny Mills.
Posted by robbohuyton at 02:05