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Ronnie Whelan: My fears for Liverpool now that Gerrard has decided to go

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Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers

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Steven Gerrard

Who will lead Liverpool now that Steven Gerrard has decided to walk away? I fear for the club because I don't see anyone else waiting in the wings to shoulder responsibility.

So many questions have been raised by Gerarrd's announcement that he had reached the end of the road at Anfield and all of them point to a difficult future for the club.

To quantify Gerrard's place in the history of Liverpool is not easy mainly because the greatest players lived and played at a time when trophies flowed like water and some of the best in the world called Anfield their home.

Gerrard's greatness is clearly influenced by circumstances and the fact that he carried everyone on his shoulders for so long.

When Kenny Dalglish was in his pomp or Graeme Souness or Steve McMahon or any number of big names, they had quality around them and half a dozen lads who would have comfortably worn the captain's armband.

Gerrard performed in isolation for a great deal of his career, occasionally brushing against the type of class I expected to meet every day I went training or playing.

Fernando Torres flattered for a couple of seasons, Xavi Alonso was made of the right stuff and of course, Luis Suarez gave Gerrard a glimpse of how things might have been.

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There were others but not many and for that reason, Gerrard gets an extra amount of credit when I do a mental comparison with players I knew well.

I can't rate him above Dalglish and I reckon Souness was ahead of him but he would be in my all-time Liverpool team, no question about that.

The problem after he is gone is glaring. Can you name one player in the current crop who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Gerrard? Or even one who might one day achieve the kind of status and reputation he has achieved without ever winning a Premier League title?

In fact, it would not surprise me one bit if Gerrard had a look around him in the dressing room after Liverpool made him an offer he could refuse and reached the same conclusion that I have. This team is struggling and will continue to struggle.

It was bad enough for brittle young characters when Suarez jumped ship and Daniel Sturridge checked himself into the long term injury clinic but now they know that the one great rock in their football lives will be taken away in May. How will they cope?

As for Brendan Rodgers, I think this weakens him. Everything he said since Gerrard explained that he had a contract offer on the table but would wait before making a decision suggested that he wanted to keep his captain.

Clearly, the Liverpool offer was not enough for Gerrard who is a smart lad and will know exactly what he is worth to another club, be that in England, America or Europe.

In fact it would not be a big surprise at all if Robbie Keane is somewhere in the middle of all this. He spent some time at Anfield and I would think he knows Gerrard well.

Nobody could better sell the idea of a competitive and lucrative wind down in the MLS with glory available, albeit not on the scale Gerrard must have believed was his birthright when he was taking the first steps on the road to a professional career as a teenager.

One way or other, Rodgers will not have Gerrard in his squad after April and he has to find some big personalities fast.

This time last year, I challenged Liverpool to go on a run which would prove that all Rodgers' fine words about progress had some meaning. With Suarez leading the charge and Gerrard pulling the strings, they did just that.

One year on, Suarez is gone, Sturridge has been out for five months, Mario Balotelli sulks in the background and Gerrard, the man who linked everything together on and off the pitch, is on a lap of honour.

Presiding over the whole thing is John W Henry and it seems plain to me that a business decision was made to move on from Gerrard. Their offer was not enough to keep him.

Committee or no committee, this undermines Rodgers, who, as I said above, said he wanted to keep Gerrard at the club.

Perhaps Rodgers was saying the right things for the archives. It is never easy to preside over the passing of a legend but I do believe he genuinely thought that Liverpool next season, at least, would be better off with rather than without Gerrard and I have to agree with that.

Which brings me back to where I started and the absence of men in the Liverpool squad who can match Gerrard's leadership qualities.

Back in my day at Anfield and for years before that, legends retired and people said they were irreplaceable. But that was never true.

They said Keegan could not be replaced and he was. They said Rush would never be topped and behind him came Aldo, Fowler, Owen. There was always a queue and if Merseyside didn't produce the talent, the money to bring in the best these islands could supply.

Last July, Liverpool lost Suarez and there was nobody to replace him. In September they lost Sturridge and there was nobody to replace him.

Now they have lost Stevie Gerrard, the one man fans have been able to look to for inspiration and hope in the dark days.

Put it this way, you won't find many season ticket holders in the Kop leaning towards an optimistic outlook for the future.

It is a measure of the decline that Gerrard stands alone in this generation when it comes to nominations for the Anfield Hall of Fame.

He will be sorely missed.


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