It has been a difficult six months to be a Liverpool supporter, of that there can be no question.
From time to time it is human nature for supporters to express anger at various players. I have found myself losing patience with Rickie Lambert in recent weeks, and afterwards can’t help but feel guilty as if I’ve shouted at an old dog that couldn’t make it to the garden in time.
Liverpool boast some of the best supporters in world football, with the fact they rarely get on the backs of their players being what sets them apart from most.
But with social media playing a more and more active role in football nowadays, the likes of Twitter, Facebook and whatever else has introduced us to a host of fickle fans – with the Steven Gerrard case of the last week being the most clear example.
After the 2-2 draw with Leicester on New Years Day, my Twitter timeline was full of ‘supporters’ slating Gerrard for a below par performance, some going as far to ridiculously claim he should be released from his contract this month.
Well, be careful what you wish for.
Following Gerrard’s heartbreaking statement the next day in which he declared he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, those same people that were slating him 24 hours previously were back online declaring him the best player to ever pull on a Liverpool shirt.
Whilst nobody is immune from criticism, you can’t help but wonder if the fact Gerrard has not been backed in the way he should have been by some supporters this season could have played some part in his decision to call it a day at the end of the current campaign.
Gerrard has come under fire quicker than most Liverpool players this season, something I can’t help but find staggering when you consider all he has done for the club.
It is a fact Gerrard has been aware of from a young age, pointing out several times over the course of his career that local lads the likes of himself are quicker to bare the brunt of the supporters frustrations.
His two goal showing to save the Reds from FA Cup humiliation on Monday evening was a further reminder of just how important he remains to the team, and further underlined the fact it is a big mistake to be allowing him to go.
If those who have been slating him on social media this season don’t realise it now, they certainly will come next season.
Gerrard’s two goal showing also established him as the Reds top goalscorer this season with nine goals in all competitions – one more than both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have managed at Manchester United.
It begs the question – why on earth has he been allowed to leave?
Alan Shearer made a good point (unusually) during the BBC’s broadcast of the Wimbledon game. Had Liverpool been desperate for Gerrard to stay at Anfield, surely he would have?
Shearer likened Gerrard to Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, both of whom were managed carefully well into their late thirties. Whilst they didn’t play every week, they played in all the important matches. Did Brendan Rodgers offer such a scenario to the Liverpool skipper?
Gerrard said the moment he realised he would not be ending his career at Anfield was after a conversation in which Rodgers told him he would no longer be a regular starter.
“There was more than one moment that has made me come to this decision, but I think the key conversation or moment was with the manager when he sat me down not so long ago and said it was time to manage my games for me and for the team,” he explained earlier this week.
“I’m bright enough to realise it is the right thing for everyone, but when you’ve been a starter and a mainstay in the team for such a long time, it was a very difficult conversation to have with the manager. I accept it and I’ll continue to give everything I’ve got, whether I’m starting, coming off the bench or whatever, but that was the key conversation that swung me to deciding to come away for a short while.”
Whilst he didn’t elaborate much on what that conversation between himself and the boss, you can’t help but feel Brendan came up short in his attempts to keep Gerrard at Anfield.
The warning signs were there in November, when Gerrard publicly admitted he had not been offered a contract extension. Exactly why that was not seen as a priority well before Gerrard went public is simply staggering.
The ones who will suffer ultimatley is Rodgers himself, the team and the supporters. A Liverpool side without Steven Gerrard is something I have experienced just once – the 1997/98 season as an eight-year-old – and is not something I am looking forward to.
Gerrard has bailed Liverpool out time and again, season after season. You dread to think where the club would be without him over the last 16 years, whilst he remains one of the few natural leaders and truly world class players in the current Liverpool squad.
He will certainly be impossible to replace, whilst his departure should act as a lesson not only to Brendan Rodgers and the club who you feel have often under-valued Gerrard, but the supporters who have been far too quick to get on his back all season.
Between now and May there is no doubt everyone will remain firmly behind Gerrard, with that old adage of you never know what you’ve got til it’s gone soon to become appropriate.
I just hope he ends the season with another trophy – the only thing that would be a fitting farewell for one of the greatest midfield players of all time.