Gerrard calm admirable as expectant city awaits glory

“This does not fucking slip now.” Steven Gerrard’s huddle — the inspirational moment that will define an unlikely triumph? Or an ominous poke from the finger of fear?

Gerrard calm admirable as expectant city awaits glory

When Phil Collins retired a few years ago he had done it all — according to the figures anyway, whatever about the numbers — but couldn’t take much more from the critics.

His devout fan has always had the critics on side, but has been dogged by fear of never winning the one he wanted, that his people wanted most.

Nearly all the critics. To some, there would be a certain poetry in Gerrard reclaiming Liverpool’s perch in the very season Alex Ferguson dismissed his credentials in the competitive area of top topness.

But this has not, until now, been a story of Gerrard proving himself, not in the way he used to anyway.

Rather, we have seen a reinvented, composed, almost subdued Gerrard transplanted as the brains of his team rather than its heart and lungs.

Shortly before Craig Bellamy left Liverpool for the second time he talked through his anxieties with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.

“I was petrified that I would finish my career without a trophy. Petrified. He told me I had been nothing but a success as a player and I didn’t need trophies to prove to anyone how good I was as a player. When you let go of those kind of things, it’s amazing how relaxed and calm you become.”

A few months later Bellamy won a League Cup medal, then a championship with Cardiff. He didn’t start many fights either.

In the foreword for Bellamy’s book, Gerrard writes: “He is a bit similar to me in a way. He has got certain small insecurities.”

Gerrard also went to Peters off his own bat. And one of Brendan Rodgers’ first moves was to bring the psychiatrist to Anfield.

It is the insecurities, as much as the genius, that make Gerrard the most compelling character of his supposed golden generation of English footballers.

Cocksure, in one sense — he has been known to call his right foot “me tin-opener”. But this is also a man who washes his hands 15 times a day, who won’t walk barefoot on the beach, who runs with a hunch as though literally carrying the hopes of a city on his shoulders.

A few years ago, Gerrard invited Sky One into his life for a documentary. For the most part, it was a claustrophobic affair, as the city’s hopes intruded on him at every turn. But then Stevie brought us home, to his sanctuary. “This is meant to stay private, but come inside,” he begrudged, a bit too late in the day.

The same curious conflict that told Geoff Shreeves to mind his own business for enquiring about a spectacle that had taken place in front of cameras and microphones.

Stevie brought us past the white piano, via the swimming pool and the steam room that seats eight, to the games room with the Champions League imagery etched on its glass doors and on to the display case with his and Maldini’s shirts mounted on electric spinning mannequins. He knew it looked a bit much.

“It’s just showing off really, but it’s always nice to come in here and go back to Istanbul.”

For refuge, Stevie always had his finest hour.

When Brendan Rodgers brought the cameras into his home for Being Liverpool in 2012, he walked past the giant sepia print of Brendan Rodgers without explanation. He probably didn’t think anything of it.

This is a man who told us his greatest mentor was himself. In moments of doubt, Brendan always has someone close to turn to.

Being Liverpool is a different watch now. Sure, many of the incessant bon mots are still nonsensical. “We were brought up not with the silver spoon in my mouth, but the silver shovel.”

The incredible self-assurance, just days in the job, came off a little comical then. As much as his innovative coaching, that belief might now be Liverpool’s chief asset in a thrilling surge to glory notable for a lack of anxiety.

Maybe it relaxed Gerrard into the role many felt he couldn’t play.

It is 16 years since Rodgers began compiling the 180-page dossier he would hand to Liverpool — around the time Gerrard made his debut for the club.

Of course, Rodgers started it without knowing which club would reap the rewards of his vision. A freedom Gerrard has never known.

When Stevie stepped away from the mannequins, he talked about the flirtations with Chelsea.

“If I came back at 32 or 33 years of age with medals from another club, who would I show them to? Who’d be interested in seeing them?”

You could excuse Gerrard a brief loss of calm on an emotional afternoon for his city. He almost has something else to show them. Maybe he can feel the fear and do it anyway.

Browne feats will survive despite missing ‘big one’

If Stevie G needs any further relaxation ahead of the trip to Norwich, he might reflect on how Tony Browne is being appreciated, despite departing without the big one.

Regard for Browne’s athleticism, durability and style will spill beyond his county bounds long after medals have tarnished.

All the same, there will always be people interested in seeing his, not least his last one won with Waterford in 2010, which produced two critical, if contrasting, interventions.

His instinct, dash and wrists whipped the last-ditch goal that forced Cork to a replay. Then, in the first floodlit Munster final, Browne threw himself in front of Cathal Naughton’s late blast to preserve Waterford’s lead.

Sky’s A Year In My Life called Gerrard “an international byword for bravery and belief.” In a different time, maybe after the Sky-powered expansion, Browne might have been another global.

Ex-boss has no more use for Fergie wine

The teaching hasn’t been restricted to the Harvard Business School — it seems we are learning more about Alex Ferguson in the few months he’s been gone than in all the years he was winning. This week, word reaches us that his wine is to go, set to be auctioned by Christie’s with a total price tag around £3m.

So Fergie will hold onto the belt that beat him, that helped to instil all the fear. But he has no more use for the wine, that he drew on so often to help build his network of relationships.In his book, Fergie is modest about his wine expertise. “I know the good years and the good wines. I can taste a wine and recognise some of its properties.”

As always, he knew the price.


Stairway to Heaven

Crystal Palace: If it lacked anything, the Premier League, amid the riches, the glamour, the controvassy, it was surely the espionage.

Ken Doherty: “I’m not going to retire like Stephen Hendry, I’m much more like Steve Davis and Jimmy White who just love playing.” In that Davis-Hendry exhibition I mentioned last week, a certain lack of joy was evident alright in Hendry’s work. A man who can live without it, maybe. Perhaps he’s the lucky one. Still, welcome back to the Crucible, Ken.

Hell in a Handcart

Arsene Wenger: Has seamlessly begun talking about mental strength again as though we all have amnesia. Suppose, that, it itself, is true mental strength.

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