Saturday, July 7, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 2: Steven Gerrard


Voted in at number two in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series is Liverpool's present day captain marvel, the 'Huyton Hammer' Steven Gerrard.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Steven Gerrard

Years at Liverpool: 1998 to present
Position: Midfield

Date-of-birth: 30/5/1980
Birthplace: Whiston

Signed from: Apprentice

Games: 348
Goals: 64

Honours: European Cup (2005), FA Cup (2001, 2006), UEFA Cup (2001), League Cup (2001, 2003), Community Shield (2006), Super Cup (2001), PFA Young Player of the Year (2001), PFA Player of the Year (2006)

The ultimate modern day footballer, Steven Gerrard is fulfilling the dream of every local Liverpudlian. The greatest English player of his generation and arguably one of the best in the world right now, pundits have run out superlatives to describe Liverpool's talismanic midfield powerhouse.

As the inspirational skipper of the Reds he's already lifted both the FA and European Cup and our hopes of adding the Premiership title to this illustrious list rests largely on his shoulders.

A boyhood Red who was raised in nearby Huyton, he rose through the ranks of the club's youth Academy and has since stamped his authority all over the team. During the dark days of the immediate pre-Rafa era he carried the team in a way not seen since Billy Liddell in the fifties.

Originally spotted by Liverpool scouts as nine-year old, Gerrard's precocious talents were carefully nurtured by Steve Heighway and his staff at the club's centre of excellence. Aged 14, he had trials at various clubs, including Manchester United, but his intense love of the Reds was evident even then and all were rejected.

Nothing was going to distract him from his pursuit of the Anfield dream and though growth problems were to restrict his progress at times during his mid-teenage years, his single-minded determination to succeed shone through.

The management team of the time knew all about the talented youngster that was waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to make his first team breakthrough but Gerard Houllier was the boss lucky enough to first reap the benefits.

After taking just one look at him in training at the Academy, Houllier immediately promoted Gerrard to Melwood in November 1998 and by the end of the month had handed him his senior debut at home to Blackburn.

The 18-year old rookie fully grasped the opportunity to impress and certainly didn't look out of place in his early games for the Reds. Whether he was deployed in centre of midfield or as a right-back, he exuded an air of confidence from the outset, barking out orders, tackling with tenacity and spraying the ball about like a seasoned professional.

After making 13 appearances that season, Gerrard went on to fully establish himself in the side during the 1999/2000 campaign, netting his first goal in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday and collecting his first red card for a foul on his derby debut. Once these occasional bouts of recklessness were eradicated from his game Gerrard set about blooming into the complete midfielder that we know today.

His intense passion first came to the fore in March 2000 when after making a vital goal-line clearance in the Anfield derby he celebrated like he'd scored a last-minute winner. It was moments such as this that initially endeared Gerrard to the fans on the Kop.

His meteoric progress at club level was rewarded with a first full England cap that year and the following season saw his profile raised several notches more as he performed a key role in Liverpool's unprecedented cup treble success, scoring in the UEFA Cup Final win over Alaves and deservedly walking off with the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

During that treble-winning campaign, the 'Huyton Hammer' also netted what has since been voted Liverpool's best ever Premiership goal – a thunderous long-range strike that helped defeat Manchester United – and he's since assembled an impressive repertoire of spectacular strikes that would grace any 'greatest goals' dvd.

With his influence on the team becoming more and more important, Gerrard was handed the honour of succeeding Sami Hyypia as club captain in October 2003 and how he thrived on the added responsibility.

The latter days of Houllier's reign as manager though were not the happiest at Anfield and as the team lurched from one on-pitch crisis to another, it was the Herculaneum Gerrard who dragged them out of the mire and into the promised land of a top four Premiership finish.

His role in the unforgettable Champions League triumph of 2005 that followed was pure legendary; from his amazing last-gasp Kop shaker that sealed a passage into the knockout phase at the expense of Olympiacos to the spine-tingling night against AC Milan when he kick-started and orchestrated the miracle of Istanbul.

The sight of Gerrard proudly hoisting the gleaming silver trophy into the Turkish night sky was the cue for tears of happiness to be shed by many a tough Scouser. Bringing home 'number five' meant so much and will never fade from the memory.

In the immediate aftermath of his Ataturk heroics, Gerrard pledged his long-term future to the club, just has he'd done the previous summer in light of annoying speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea, but still the rumours rumbled on.

As the weeks went by without a new contract being put before him, worried Liverpudlians became increasingly concerned and Gerrard, his mind in turmoil, took the drastic step of submitting an official transfer request.

Liverpool looked to have lost the services of their best player and feelings of anger, disbelief and sorrow were visibly vented on the city streets. But in one of the most amazing u-turns ever performed, the red half of Merseyside awoke the next morning to discover all their Christmases had come at once; Gerrard had come to his senses and was staying after all!

With his future finally resolved, his performances reached even higher standards the next season and another super-human effort in a major cup final confirmed his standing as the heir apparent to Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool's greatest ever player.

Trailing to West Ham in Cardiff, Gerrard snatched the trophy from the Londoners grasp by masterminding another awe-inspiring comeback, setting up one goal and scoring two as the Reds clawed their way back into a game in which they twice looked dead and buried.

His last-gasp leveller at the end of normal time has already passed into FA Cup folklore and the subsequent penalty shoot-out victory ensured Gerrard became only the second player in history, after Stanley Matthews, to have a final named in his honour.

At 26, the undisputed 2006 PFA Player of the Year is showing no signs of slowing down. There's no reason to believe he won't be the fulcrum of this team for a long time to come and it's incredible to think his best days may still be ahead of him.

Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson once described him as 'the most inspirational player in England, bar none,' and if he continues to progress at the rate he has done then, fingers crossed, it must surely be only a matter of time before the much-coveted Premiership title is residing in the Anfield trophy cabinet.

Kenny might still be the king but Stevie is most definitely the prince and if he can get his hands on that one trophy that has so far eluded him then maybe one day soon the crown will be passed over.

Claim to fame: Lifting the European Cup in Istanbul

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