Comment: Stephen Gerrard can say more in a few seconds than many pros can mumble in 10 years
There will be plenty more time over the next fortnight to lament the departure from Anfield of Steven Gerrard the footballer, but Sunday demonstrated how Liverpool are also losing their most passionate spokesman.
Gerrard has the capacity to say more in a two minute snatched interview after a game than some players can mumble in 10 years.
Seconds after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge, Gerrard managed to sum up why Liverpool have struggled this season (failing to replace Luis Suarez); deliver a message to the club hierarchy to sort out their transfer policy this summer (‘dig deep’ to help the manager); confirm Jose Mourinho is the manager he’d most liked to have worked with; and finally, tell Chelsea’s fans that he wasn’t ready to accept 20 seconds of class as compensation for inspiring the rest of the country to mock the worst moment of his career (he’ll probably be a bit more appreciative when the dust has settled).
Gerrard represents a dying generation of footballers who skipped the media training now offered by clubs (often run by those whose media career failed so they've carved a niche issuing warnings about journalists instead of being one) and – rather like his on-field performances – he consults his heart rather then a PR advisor before speaking. It has been the same since he broke into the side, and it is all the more desirable in an age where you can leave some press conferences feeling as though you’ve been listening to a lifestyle guru rather than a footballer or a manager.
You get the impression some ‘media trainers’ want to teach footballers the skill of how to speak for 10 minutes while saying absolutely nothing of value, as if avoiding a headline is as crucial as evading a two-footed tackle.
The reasons for Gerrard leaving are well-documented and are as much to do with him seeking a guaranteed starting place and change of scenery as Liverpool’s delayed offer of a contract earlier this season. What is troubling is Liverpool are in no position to be allowing such men of wisdom leave Merseyside.
There are individuals who are far more powerful than Gerrard at Liverpool who are so well protected, some supporters still have no idea who they are and they are not even listed as employees on the club’s official website. It is a cynical view, but there always has been a suspicion there are some who aren’t too bothered Gerrard is leaving because he’s probably got too much to say about the standard of recruitment and how Liverpool should go about challenging again.
Fortunately, there is some comfort for those desperate to ensure Gerrard’s voice continues to be heard. His new neighbour in Los Angeles will be Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, who will be eager to arrange plenty of lunch dates to get a full and frank assessment from Gerrard on where Liverpool have toiled over the last 15 years and what they should be doing better. The Liverpool captain may be about to complete the transition from the greatest player the club has had to its most prominent and able advisor.