Friends Of Liverpool

STEVEN GERRARD has long been Liverpool’s saviour.
Who will ever forget the way he inspired his team’s astonishing second-half comeback in their glorious Champions League final triumph against AC Milan in 2005?
Or his sizzling, last-gasp, so-yard strike that denied West Ham victory in the FA Cup final 12 months later?
Rarely has a player in football history been solely responsible for saving his club on so many occasions. Gerrard’s shoulders and back must be aching, given the number of times he has carried Liverpool down the years.
Yet I fear the only way he may now be able to save the club he joined as a nine-year-old lad is by… and whisper it quietly in the red half of Merseyside… leaving Anfield.
I realise this will not be the consensus on the Kop, where their captain is rightly revered for the accomplishments and the loyalty he has shown his hometown club in the 12 years since he made his first-team debut.
And I am not advocating that he should jump what, this season, has turned out to be a sinking ship.
I just recognise selling Gerrard may be a viable way to get Liverpool out of the mess in which they currently find themselves.
Out of the Premier League title race, out of the Champions League, out of the FA Cup and out of the Carling Cup, Rafa Benitez’s team are currently sixth in the table and face a desperate scrap even to finish in the top four this time around.
y$ A squad which does not score enough goals and relies too heavily on its two
talismen, Gerrard and Fernando Torres, is in clear need of an overhaul.
You might think it bizarre, then, to consider getting rid of one the best players of this or any other team.
And I agree that, not so long ago, the idea of selling Gerrard would have been unthinkable.
But these are drastic times at Anfield – and drastic times call for drastic measures.
The squad undoubtedly needs to be improved. Yet, as I have said before, the club under Tom Hicks and George Gillett appears to be in a financial straitjacket restricting their movement in the transfer market and consequently their capability to challenge for honours.
Liverpool and their American owners are in a Catch 22 situation. They need to sign new players but, seemingly, do not have the funds to do so. Cashing in on the captain could be the stark solution to the problem.
It would not go down well with Liverpool supporters and I know it would cause uproar in the short term.
Long term, though, it might turn out to be the best thing for the club -provided the transfer fee went direct to squad strengthening and not towards wiping off any debts.
The £4Om, £50111 or even £6om received for Gerrard could fund three or four good signings and be the catalyst for a bright new era at Anfield.
It could help build a new team with more than two key players in its line-up. The heavy load of the Kop’s expectation would be spread more evenly across the side.
Liverpool could have a new direction, new tactics. Goals could come from elsewhere on the field.
A move could also prove to be beneficial to Gerrard.
He has always performed tremendously for Liverpool and has set high standards.
But it must be tough when you are expected to be superhuman every time that you take the field.
I am sure he is as frustrated as anybody by his club’s season.
He almost left for Chelsea six years ago. Yet his conscience and love for Liverpool got the better of him and made him stay at Anfield.
He has made no secret of the fact he is desperate to add the Premier League trophy to the Champions League, FA Cup and other gongs he has won in his career.
With his milestone soth birthday approaching in May, I wonder if, after taking stock of his club’s season, he may decide to depart this summer.
Much will depend, I am sure, on where his club finish this term and on the World Cup, where he will have an important role to play for England.
If he does leave Liverpool, it will not be the end of the world for the Kop – just maybe the start of a brave new one.

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