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If fate is kind loyal Gerrard will get wish

IT was one of those goose bump moments. Stevie G, demanding attention from his team-mates and more than happy to shoulder the responsibility for the dreams of millions of people. Scouse archive gold.

Through the almost voyeuristic imperative which guides Sky's cameramen, we caught a glimpse of Liverpool's beating heart and a hint of the instinct which guides Steven Gerrard.

You can still see the ghost of a teenager in Gerrard. When he scores or when another red shirt scores, pure joy creases his face and you see the kid he was when Ian Rush and Aldo were destroying defences.

But almost immediately, he clamps down on his emotions and boyish smiles are quickly suppressed. More than most, he understands the old-fashioned virtues of captaincy and leadership. More than any at Anfield, he hears the echoes in an empty trophy room.

When he gathered his men in a huddle at exactly the moment they were of a mind to party, he did his manager and his club a great service. The players will carry that memory all the way to Carrow Road this Sunday and beyond.

It brought to mind Roy Keane and the impact he had on the Manchester United dressing room at a time when Old Trafford was blessed with the best manager the Premier League has ever seen.

Keane ruled by fear and by setting extraordinary standards. He was the extension of Alex Ferguson's authority, but he invested a lot of himself in the Manchester United captaincy. He hated complacency with a passion and, to prevent it, felt he had to impose his will on lesser minds.

When the Manchester United captain was at his very best, Gerrard was the young pretender and, while many felt that he had ability and skills which Keane lacked, the consensus was that the Cork man was the superior package.

Gamebreaker

His ability to lift those around him and the consequent success achieved by Manchester United was seen as the gamebreaker. Gerrard, after all, has won nothing apart from a few desultory cups and the wild aberration that was Istanbul.

During those peaks, Gerrard proved he could inspire great deeds, but there weren't enough of them to ease his dismay when Ferguson dismissed him in his recent book as "not a top, top player".

Perhaps if he had jumped ship in 2005 when Chelsea were dangling vast sums in front of him or indeed accepted one of the many offers which Ferguson made over the years, we might have a different view of him.

Gerrard came under huge pressure when, as he said himself, Chelsea "turned my head" and there were whispered stories at the time of threats made to the player and his family suggesting ugly consequences if he left.

If true, they represent the desperation felt by Liverpool supporters at a time when the club was beginning to rupture internally. If they lost Gerrard, the game was up.

He stayed and if fate is kind, he will finally be rewarded for his loyalty. His influence on Liverpool, like Rodgers', is perceived as a much more wholesome thing than the image of brooding menace which Keane liked to cultivate.

Gerrard and Rodgers bring people with them rather than herding them down the road with a Taser and, for that reason, it is possible for neutrals to like this Liverpool team. They're pretty easy on the eye too.

A club which needed some love and attention after decades of mourning and misadventure is on the brink of something truly great and, even if we are all a bit bemused by the appearance of so many born-again Scousers in our midst, there is still a deep-rooted affection for the club on this side of the pond and most would like to see Gerrard finally get his wish.


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