Monday 20 November 2017

Robbie Keane will have to recognise that Steven Gerrard is the new chief in the dressing room

Robbie Keane of the LA Galaxy (R) celebrates with Steven Gerrard (L) after scoring the equaliser against Club America off a pass from Gerrard, the ex-Liverpool and England international on his debut for the MLS side against Club America during their 2015 International Champions Cup match in Carson, California.
Robbie Keane of the LA Galaxy (R) celebrates with Steven Gerrard (L) after scoring the equaliser against Club America off a pass from Gerrard, the ex-Liverpool and England international on his debut for the MLS side against Club America during their 2015 International Champions Cup match in Carson, California.

Chris Bascombe

No matter how much you try, there are some things you never get used to.

England being 400 runs ahead of Australia after three days; John Inverdale ripping up the traditions of ‘less is more’ when commentating on tennis; and Jose Enrique entering his 12th season as a professional footballer top recent lists (really, does anyone know how that happened?).

Then you’re confronted with an image that trips over the line separating awkwardness and weirdness.

Steven Gerrard wearing his LA Galaxy shirt for the first time in the early hours of Sunday morning just looked wrong, wrong, wrong.

“He looked like he belonged,” his new manager Bruce Arena said.

No he didn’t.

He looked like Clarke Kent in Superman 2. That bit where he’s decided he no longer needs the responsibility of saving the world, heads for his ice palace and surrenders those powers for the love of Lois Lane.

It seems a good idea at the time, lasts a couple of scenes before the realisation everything is going to pot at home reunites him with his old outfit.

Gerrard’s Liverpool exile will last (at least) 18 months and the suspicion remains it will be much more fun for him than those he left behind. We’re yet to see how Liverpool cope without Gerrard - a prospect that promises to be as discomforting as seeing him in another club’s shirt – but you can’t imagine him strolling around Beverley Hills pining for Anfield just yet. Liverpool aren’t quite being overrun by General Zod at this stage (despite what Aidy Ward is telling his mates about Brendan Rodgers) but evidence the club has anyone better than the 35-year-old ex-captain in midfield to face Stoke City next month remains flimsy.

That’s not to say the adjustment won’t be as tough for Gerrard as those who thought the Liverpool strip was stitched to his body. Seeing him standing in the players’ tunnel a few yards behind his new captain carried a certain novelty value, but he will be in the compromise and etiquette following stage at LA. Even Robbie Keane must recognise the real chief in that dressing room during the most competitive MLS games. The further back you make a born leader stand behind you, the greater the size of their shadow.

What we know from Gerrard’s introduction in LA and his debut is he will enjoy himself at a venue where every diagonal pass is a Hollywood ball and – with the greatest of respect to the USA – any defeat will be met with a twinge of disappointment rather than a seven-day inquest.

For Gerrard to relieve himself of the kind of pressure that he’s woken up to on Merseyside since he was 19 is football’s equivalent of cold turkey. It’s going to take more than a few weeks for him to get Liverpool out of his system.

The first sight of him in the white of LA Galaxy was a reminder the process at the club he left behind might take even longer.

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