Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 September 2019

Rodgers: Gerrard a Liverpool icon

Steven Gerrard will say goodbye to Anfield on Saturday
Steven Gerrard will say goodbye to Anfield on Saturday

Brendan Rodgers believes Steven Gerrard is 'Mr Liverpool' and has done more for his home city than the politicians whose job it is to work for the betterment of the area.

The 34-year-old midfielder will lead his boyhood side out at Anfield for the final time on Saturday against Crystal Palace ahead of his summer move to Los Angeles Galaxy.

Reds manager Rodgers admits the player is irreplaceable and that the city of his birth owes him a great debt.

Gerrard's testimonial at Anfield in August 2013 raised about £1million and he donated £500,000 to Alder Hey Children's Hospital Charity - of which he became a founding partner - while his own foundation, set up in 2011, continues to raise money to provide grants for local causes.

Rodgers said that showed the mark of the man, not just as a footballer.

"I've asked a lot of my staff 'If you could describe Steven in one word what would it be?'" he said.

"The words which come to mind are 'genuine', 'quality', 'world-class' - all the adjectives you would describe him as.

"I would describe him as 'Liverpool'. Not just Liverpool as a football club but Liverpool the city.

"This is a guy who is very much about looking after his people. He loves this city.

"As you have seen and heard he has had number of opportunities to move from here to prestigious clubs but Liverpool is his home.

"He grew up round the corner and went on to play for the club he supported and what he has given to this city, politicians haven't given to this city.

"What he has [done for] local hospitals and charities, all the work he does is unheralded.

"He is a wonderful symbol for the people here and an incredible icon of the club.

"If you think he is a good player he is an even better human being."

Planning for life without Gerrard began months ago but Rodgers accepts there is no one player he can bring in who can even hope to fill the void.

However, he refused to discuss how they might get around the problem in the summer.

"Today isn't about talking about transfer policy. Today is about commemorating the career of a phenomenal player in Steven," he added.

"Not having him here will be a hole and a miss. He has shown he is one of the few genuine world-class players.

"He is irreplaceable in terms of what he is but you have to keep moving forward as a club and a team."

Gerrard will be given a guard of honour for his final match at Anfield. The 34-year-old is likely to start alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield as Rodgers expects to have the same squad which drew at Chelsea last weekend.

After being sidelined by a hamstring injury for five weeks defender Mamadou Sakho trained this week as did striker Mario Balotelli, who did not make the squad at Stamford Bridge.

Crystal Palace manager Pardew was in charge of West Ham when Gerrard's last-gasp long-range strike denied the Hammers FA Cup glory in the 2006 final.

Liverpool salvaged a 3-3 draw at the death and went on to lift the cup on penalties, and Pardew still recalls Gerrard offering words of consolation before launching the celebrations.

Pardew hailed Gerrard's "mystique" that will cement his place in Anfield folkore.

"I heard he said his best goal was the cup final goal against West Ham, for the equaliser," said Pardew, who has a clean bill of health for the trip to Merseyside.

"Nigel Reo-Coker just dropped off him at the death, and Steven smashed it into the bottom corner.

"He's done that consistently throughout his career, come up with an inspirational moment for Liverpool, and that's why he's loved.

"And that's why he has that tremendous mystique to his playing career.

"He came up and consoled me after the cup final rather than celebrate, so that just shows the measure of the man."

Meanwhile, Pardew believes Jason Puncheon committing his long-term future to Palace will convince other top stars to stay on at Selhurst Park.

Pardew has revealed former Southampton winger Puncheon has signed a four-year contract extension with the Croydon club.

Defender Damien Delaney has also completed a one-year contract extension, as Palace start the process of retaining in-form stars like Puncheon, and in-demand Yannick Bolasie.

Pardew has already slapped a £60million price tag on Democratic Republic of Congo winger Bolasie this term, and now believes Puncheon's loyalty will help keep his squad together.

"Yes it does help keep other players at the club," said Pardew, after Puncheon committed to Palace until June 2019.

"You need to keep your best technical players.

"The level we are at, in terms of that 10 or 15 clubs below the very top teams, it's difficult to get players of Punch's ability.

"So it's very important for us to secure him, I'm very pleased about it.

"He can play a number of roles and we can look forward to seeing more of him next year."

PA Media

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