The return of Liverpool's living legend

Football autobiographies tend to set their stall out early doors.

The return of Liverpool's living legend

First chapter of Big Sam’s is called ‘Jumpers for goalposts’ — a lament for simpler times, when genuine football men were appreciated in their own land.

In Red, Gary Neville immediately offers his credentials with his own people: ‘Gary Neville is a Red, he hates Scousers.’

Steven Gerrard, too, goes direct from the kick-off: “Cut my veins open and I bleed Liverpool red.”

Anatomically correct, at any rate.

Gerrard signs off his book with a promise to his people: “Me and Liverpool Football Club are a love affair that will never, ever end.”

And somewhere in between, a CV is handed in to be kept on file: “One day, I’d love to manage Liverpool.”

Ever mindful of the great affair, and having dedicated many years of their lives to clamouring for Stevie to be played ‘in his best position’, England’s pressmen can now begin the campaign to have Gerrard installed in the Anfield hot seat.

Two men currently stand between Gerrard and that destiny.

There is Jurgen Klopp, who threatens to deliver Liverpool to a place where there is real hope rather than reliance on a symbol of hope, which is what Stevie G became for many years.

The second potential obstacle is Stevie himself, who must choose his path wisely in order to remain a symbol of hope, in case one is required, rather than a cautionary tale of failure, like Red Nev.

For that reason, jobs like the one at MK Dons will always come too soon.

Thankfully, for Stevie, the extraordinary cash now available in the punditry game makes it a logical staging post from where he can stake out opportunity.

“The important thing now is for me to concentrate on BT,” said Stevie in his retirement interview with Gary Lineker.

It is the great advantage of Stevie’s rather monotone delivery, that there is no discernible difference now he has swapped ‘BT’ for ‘Liverpool Football Club’ in those kind of sentences.

It could be he has a genuine vocation for punditry. He might be heralding the beginning of a beautiful love affair with BT Sport. Or it could as easily be a ‘come and get me plea’.

Whatever his intentions, Gerrard’s work in punditry has begun encouragingly, with a more precise assessment of his own career than most pundits managed during or after it.

Asked by Lineker to define what made him great, Gerrard suggested it was because he could do “a little bit of everything.”

“I could head, I could tackle, I could run, I could pass over different distances, I could nick a goal. I think that was my strength, having the body and endurance to do a little bit of everything.”

He accepted too that Rafa Benitez had been right about his glaring weakness; positional indiscipline — a tendency to chase the ball and vacate his post.

Gerrard was more than a jack of all trades, of course. What separated him was maybe what also hindered him: a keen sense of responsibility. And the courage to act on it when the time was right and even when it wasn’t right.

But his exit brought no grand claims about running games and pulling strings and being the midfield general he was widely advertised as.

That flash of humility in Gerrard may come as some relief to Jurgen Klopp, who already sounds weary of his obligation to play a role in the prolonging of the great love affair.

Perhaps the most natural PR man in Premier League history, Klopp has made just one faux pas so far at Liverpool, that ludicrous team bow in front of the Kop after a 2-2 home draw with West Brom.

That was the work of a Hipster Hodgson, but Klopp has handled his brief flawlessly since, right up to last Saturday in Southampton, when he strode onto the field again at the finish, embracing and grimacing, mixing the cocktail of pride and frustration and charm just right, after a fine performance didn’t get its due.

On Thursday he sounded like a man who could picture Stevie sitting behind him on the St Mary’s benches as the lads toiled up top, bleeding red blood. A Stevie who would whisper enigmatically in a sullen Daniel Sturridge’s ear whenever the cameras panned his way, as they would often.

But Klopp is hyper-conscious of Liverpool history and must be careful with Gerrard, so he assured us that the Anfield door is always open and that an announcement might well be imminent.

But the drip-drip word of Stevie’s intentions over the last fortnight has forewarned him of the circus that would come to town.

“If somebody wants to help Steven Gerrard, stop being so excited about each step he is next doing,” he pleaded, with the pressmen, trying to excuse himself from this narrative.

“Stop talking about it here, because it will not help Steven and it will not help me. So why should we talk about it?”

The talk now is that Gerrard may take up a job with the club’s academy.

Arsene Wenger couldn’t find a place for Thierry Henry anywhere in his camp while Henry was concentrating on Sky Sports.

But it might be as well to have Stevie inside the tent, at a safe distance, rather than outside, finding fault, like the class of ’92.

There is another possibility for Stevie. A narrative England’s pressmen would certainly get behind. Closer to home, we have seen the value of a news generating phenomenon in the international camp, able to deflect attention during sticky periods.

Though, here Stevie’s timing may be off. The likely appointment of the low-key Gareth Southgate suggests the FA too have had their fill of sideshows and distractions.

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