At the centre of it all, quite literally, was Gerrard; the boy from Huyton who was raised a Red, idolised John Barnes, dreamt of being Steve McMahon, lost a family member in what remains the saddest, most hurtful chapter in Liverpool’s history and had dedicated his adult life to representing not just his club but also his city. Of course he cried at the end, and of course it was him who told those around him to keep going. After all, he’s kept going ever since he was 18.
The scrawny substitute of November 1998 has become a man, leader, icon and force of nature in front of our eyes and now stands on the brink of his crowning achievement. Forget Istanbul ’05 and Cardiff ’06; this is the one Gerrard really wants, the one you believe he would swim through lava and dance through broken glass for.
Outsiders don’t get it. Those from Salford sing about how Gerrard handed in a transfer request but seem to have conveniently forgotten that, 24 hours later, he took it back and chucked it in the bin, that for all his doubts he ultimately knew, in his heart of hearts, that Liverpool was the only club for him. His is a cause, not a career, and now, 16 years after he replaced Vegard Heggem against Blackburn on a cold afternoon at Anfield, Gerrard stands on the brink of achieving it all. x