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Steven Gerrard set to leave his boyhood club

Steven Gerrard set to leave his boyhood club

 

Image Courtesy of senior agen, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of senior agen, flickr.com

The day that we all knew would come is finally here. Arguably Liverpool Football Club’s best ever player, and one of the greatest servants of the city, is set to hang up his famous number 8 shirt for the final time.

The news that Steven Gerrard is set to leave Liverpool Football Club for the MLS at the end of the season has the city divided. Fans are asking “Is he still capable of competing in the elite Premier League?” and “Surely this can’t be true?”

There are those of us that are not wanting to let our captain go, feeling there is still more left in the tank. This season Gerrard has shown his class with his dead ball skills, netting another world-class goal in Europe and continuing his great penalty record – scoring two goals against Leicester at the weekend, taking his tally to 23 goals out of 30 penalties in the Premier League. The Liverpool captain still has so much to offer; his invaluable experience, leadership and knowledge of the game will be a huge loss to the team on and off the pitch.

Then you have fans on the flip side, who will be looking to the future of the club and will argue that Istanbul was ten years ago and that, as amazing as that night was, we need to move on. Everyone can see that Gerrard isn’t the player he once was and, granted, there have been some average performances by the Liverpool captain this season. But at this stage in his career, we can’t expect him to turn out the world-class performances we have all become accustomed to.

 

Image Courtesy of aFootballBlog, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of aFootballBlog, flickr.com

Whichever side that you sit on, the Premier League will have lost one of the greatest midfielders the world has ever seen. If we want to see Gerrard running down a ball before burying it in the back of the net like he has done on so many occasions – Olympiacos and the 2006 FA cup final against West Ham spring to mind – or delivering world-class cross pitch passes, and picking up players anywhere on the pitch as he leads the line, then we’ll have to catch it on ESPN as of next year.

The biggest question is ‘How do we replace what can’t be replaced?’ Back when Kegan departed in the 70s, fans wondered who would score the goals…..enter Kenny Dalglish, the only player that can challenge Gerrard for the affections of the Liverpool fans. But that was then and this is now. Brendan Rodgers has been questionable in the transfer window and looks set to be under the scrutiny of the Anfield faithful, should he not find a suitable replacement or not let the captain go without a fight.

No matter what happens at the end of the season, we’ll all be able to look back on what has been one of the greatest footballing careers. And the fans will always thank Gerrard for the memories and for the famous nights in Europe that he delivered, time and time again. Good luck Stevie G – you’ll never walk alone.

Premier League enters final sprint

As we head into the start of March, there is everything still to play for in the Barclays Premier League.

calendario-premier-league

Race for the Title

It might seem to many that Manchester United have already got one hand on the Premier League title but for anyone who follows football, we all know that could all change in a matter of games. Manchester City, you will remember, were eight points behind with just six games to go last season and still managed to snatch the title in the most dramatic circumstances, so anything can happen.  12 points might seem like a lot but with Manchester United focused on the Champions League tie with Real Madrid in two weeks’ time, City’s early exit from the competition could work in their favour as they look to close the gap at the top.  Injuries will be key but if United can keep Van Persie and Rooney fit, it’s difficult to see them losing four games from now until the end of the season. For the neutral, though we hope for the drama and excitement of last season, but as Sky Sports pundit Martin Tyler so famously said at the time “I promise you will never see anything like it again”….I’m afraid I tend to agree.

Verdict: United will get their hands on their 20th league trophy.

Champions League Qualification

The battle for 4th is set to go to the wire as we eagerly await the North London derby this weekend. Gareth Bale’s blistering form has catapulted Spurs into 3rd place in the Barclays Premier League ahead of their London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Welsh international scored two wonder goals in Spurs’ stunning 3-2 win over West Ham this week to continue his outstanding form in front of goal. The man who flitted in and out of the Tottenham side for two years, following his arrival from Southampton, in 2007 has now become one of Europe’s premier performers. The Tottenham winger has scored 23 goals in an incredible season, with 9 goals in the last 7 games. He is the only midfielder on the continent to have had more than 100 shots this season and he alone has earned Tottenham 15 points this season.

However, with Bale’s outstanding performances single-handily carrying the team at the moment, the fans are beginning to question the performance of the other players around him. For their sake, they will be hoping the injury jinx doesn’t stand in the way of qualifying for the Champions League and that Bale will remain fit for the rest of the season. Indeed if you take away the goals Bale has scored this season, Tottenham would occupy 9th place in the table. A win for Tottenham will open up a seven-point gap over Arsenal and for me should see them seal one of the two remaining places leaving it down to Arsenal and Chelsea to battle over 4th place.

Talking of Chelsea, Rafael Benitez’s spectacular outburst after Chelsea’s midweek cup win at the Riverside was evidence that he has finally cracked under the pressure of the disgruntled Chelsea fans. As a Chelsea fan myself it’s ridiculous that we don’t get behind him and support the team because, as he quite rightly said in his post-match press conference, he will be gone at the end of the season and we will be left to lick our wounds as we face the prospect of another Thursday night Europa League campaign.  If the minority of fans don’t end their campaign to “Get Rafa Out” unfortunately this will turn nightmare into reality. Whatever happens at Stamford Bridge, come what May… Chelsea will be looking for their 10th manager in as many years.

Verdict: Europa League for Arsenal… I hope!

The Race for Europe

Swansea will fly the Welsh flag in Europe next season for the first time after their Capital One Cup success last weekend at the hands of Bradford. The biggest ever winning margin in the competitions’ 100 year plus history, leaving the two Merseyside clubs and West Brom to battle it out for the remaining places. Everton’s inconsistent form since the turn of the year has seen them disappear from Champions League contenders to be Europa League certainties and Liverpool have been inconsistent all season to say the least. In Suarez and Gerrard, Liverpool have two of best players in the league and they should have more points than they have. The Rodgers Revolution is a fascinating project but hasn’t reached top gear yet.

Verdict: Everton should have enough to hold on to 6th place but might be distracted by a possible FA Cup semi-final at Wembley should they beat Wigan. All eyes on the Merseyside derby at the start of May as Liverpool look to close the three-point gap. West Brom will fall just short but it must be said what a fantastic season for Steve Clarke and the Baggies.

Mid Table Mediocrity

The likes of Stoke, Sunderland, West Ham, Fulham, Norwich and Newcastle you would think are just about safe if they secure a couple more wins and will compete against each other to finish as high up in the table as possible.

Relegation

QPR are in desperate trouble at the bottom of the table; seven points from safety and you have to wonder how they will cope both on and off the pitch should they fail to avoid relegation to the Championship. Huge transfer fees and a frightening wage bill don’t bode well for the West London club.

Harry’s magic hasn’t really worked its wonders yet. Despite a freak 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in January, the team never kicked on. It’s now or never for QPR and this is where Harry Redknapp should come into his own. If anyone can oversee the great escape then he can but if they don’t start winning then I’m afraid they will be plying their trade in England’s second tier next season.

Reading, Aston Villa, Southampton and Wigan are all locked in a battle to survive but with Ricky Lambert scoring goals for Southampton on a regular basis and Wigan seasoned campaigners at avoiding the drop against all odds, I think they will survive leaving Villa – one of only six teams to appear in every Premier League season – and Reading heading through the trap door with QPR.

All in all, a fascinating climax to the end of another fantastic season of Barclays Premier League football.

 

Words by Dan Apostolos

Dear Mr Rodgers…

Hot on the heels of an open letter printed in the Daily Telegraph last week by football writer Henry Winter, urging Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke to enforce change at the club, I read another open letter written by the Daily Mail’s Rik Sharma.

Entitled ‘An open letter to Fernando Torres’, Sharma’s missive outlines why, as a lifelong Chelsea supporter, he is urging the misfiring striker to leave the club in the summer and return to Spain. Sharma explores in considerable detail Torres’ time at the club, from the initial excitement of his arrival in the January transfer window of 2011, to the early doubts about whether the £50 million man was worth the fee, through to the growing resentment amongst Chelsea supporters towards his attitude and general demeanour and finally, the nadir of Torres being booed off the pitch on his 100th appearance last month.

Chelsea fan or not, the article is interesting reading, if nothing else for the way it catalogues the sorry decline of a player once feared as the best in his trade (as a Liverpool supporter, I still hold some cherished memories).

But reading Sharma’s impassioned appeal, so soon after Henry Winter’s very public call to arms to ‘Silent Stan’ Kroenke, made me question whether we are seeing the emergence of a new fashion in football journalism. That is, emotively infused appeals from the journalist as ‘football fan’ as opposed to observer and reporter.

Of course, the wider concept of the open letter is nothing new and indeed, self-penned appeals seem to be de rigueur amongst Premiership club owners at the moment, most notably with Liverpool FC’s John W Henry’s and his letter to supporters in September 2012 apologizing for the club’s transfer policy.

It is clear however that the concept of the open letter in the back pages is an increasingly popular journalistic vehicle through which to frame opinions, and generate debate online. Perhaps the emergence of the trend is no surprise considering the rise of the football fan as commentator and opinion-shaper himself, through blogs and football forums.  It will be interesting to see how many other open letters will appear between now and the end of the season, especially as we head into the ‘business end’ of the year with passions often at their highest and gripes at their worst.

My own open letter? Why oh why can’t Liverpool string a few wins together, Brendan Rodgers, just for once!

 

Words by Ciaran McCale