Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Steven Gerrard (18)

We continue our countdown of the greatest English players of all time with Liverpool's talismanic captain...
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence
No.29 - Ted Drake
No.28 - Michael Owen
No.27 - Raich Carter
No.26 - Colin Bell
No.25 – Frank Swift
No.24 - Paul Scholes
No.23 - Tony Adams
No.22 - Martin Peters
No.21 - Billy Wright
No.20 - Geoff Hurst
No.19 - Cliff Bastin

Steven George GERRARD

Born

30/05/1980
Whiston, Merseyside

England

72 caps, 14 goals

Clubs

Liverpool



Steven Gerrard is presently in the midst of arguably the finest phase of his, to date, already dazzling career. Already a Liverpool legend at the relatively tender age of 28, he has been the driving force behind the club's return to the upper echelon of European football. Only a league winner's medal is needed to fill out what is otherwise a very well decorated mantelpiece.

Steven George Gerrard was born and raised in Whiston, Merseyside, and was snapped up by the Reds' youth scouts at the age of nine. Looking back now, it seems curious that he was never considered for the England Schoolboys teams, but in truth the young Gerrard found the going tough during his early years with his dream club. Indeed, he could have left as a youth, but none of the clubs he trialled with were sufficiently impressed.

However, as he approached his 17th birthday, 'Stevie G' had developed into quite the prospect, and he signed professional terms with Liverpool in November 1997 (not before trials with Manchester United, however). A year later he made his first-team debut, coming on as a late replacement for Vegard Heggem at Blackburn Rovers.

Gerrard's early days dovetail curiously with those of fellow Kop icon Jamie Carragher. While the latter was a prodigiously talented young attacker who gradually developed into one of the most uncompromising centre-backs in Europe, the former started out as something of a utility player - and he certainly didn't burst onto the scene in the same fashion as 'Carra' (who, incidentally, scored on his full Premier League debut - his career tally stands at three).

The first 18 months of Gerrard's first-team career were not especially memorable. He played in a variety of positions - right-back, right-wing, central midfield - and has since admitted to suffering from uncontrollable nerves and anxiety during this period. Injuries didn't help - indeed, persistent groin and back problems looked like they might end his career before it properly started.

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"His loyalty, skill and leadership make him ,hands-down, the best english player of his generation. He is one of those few players that can singlehandedly win a match, as he has done so on many occasions both for his club and country." jay | liverpool

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Still, the Liverpool management persisted with the combative, versatile youngster - a gamble for which they were handsomely rewarded.

The breakthrough came during the 2000-01 season. With captain Jamie Redknapp out for the entire campaign as he recovered from knee surgery, Gerrard established himself as an integral member of the starting XI, forging an excellent partnership with Dietmar Hamann in midfield as the Reds romped to a unique cup treble. All in all, he played 50 games and scored 10 times, including a goal in the 5-4 thriller against Deportivo Alaves in the UEFA Cup final.

Over the next two seasons, Gerrard announced himself as one of England's most promising prospects. Not only did he catch the eye with his ferocious ball-winning skills, boundless energy and action-hero backtracking, but his ability to up the tempo with the ball at his feet and unlock even the tightest defences with his virtuoso passing caught the attention of audiences across the globe.

In 2003, he succeeded Sami Hyypia as captain of Liverpool. It was a bold and much-publicised decision on manager Gerard Houllier's part, and many believed the Frenchman had handed Gerrard the armband partly as a strategy to help fast-track his maturation and cut out the indiscipline that had blighted his game to that point.

A year later, Gerrard's future came into serious doubt. Another trophyless season had resulted in Houllier being replaced by Rafael Benitez in the summer, and it seemed that the skipper was bound for newly cashed-up Chelsea. Although he flirted with idea (not for the last time), he ultimately remained for what remains the defining season of his career.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT

That magical night in Istanbul

The Reds struggled in the league under Benitez, eventually limping into fifth place; Europe, though, was an entirely different story. Gerrard's last-minute heroics against Olympiacos saw them scrape through the group stage, after which they proceeded to down Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea to reach the final. Seen as rank underdogs as they faced up to a mighty Milan outfit in Istanbul, the English club found themselves 3-0 down at half-time. "Game over," Andy Gray famously declared as Hernan Crespo dispatched his second goal of the game.

Gerrard had other ideas. After a tactical switch by Benitez at the interval, the captain proceeded to single-handedly drag his side back back to level terms, scoring once and winning a penalty amid an awe-inspiring passage of individual play. Liverpool triumphed on penalties to claim their fifth European Cup, and 'Stevie G' had announced himself as a bone fide superstar.

A year later, he did much the same as Liverpool came from behind three times against West Ham United in the FA Cup decider to win what is now known as 'the Gerrard final'. Regrettably, his England career hasn;t hit the heights; the long- running debate over whether he and Frank Lampard can play alongside each other has seen him shunted around the park and fail to replicate his Anfield exploits.

Some say his inability to perform on the international stage highlights a lack of tactical understanding, but that issue has been fairly well addressed with the arrival of Fernando Torres on Merseyside. With Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso forming an impressive tandem in central midfield, Benitez has pushed Gerrard gradually further up the pitch in recent years - so much so that he is now effectively playing as Torres' strike partner, and with fairly awesome results.

Despite a series of niggling injuries, he has scored 24 times this season - a career high - as his beloved club came within four points of ending their 19-year title drought. That lack of league success is the one black mark on his CV - but even if he never wins the English championship, Steven Gerrard, with his all-round brilliance and inspiring leadership, will have done enough to ensure his place among the game's greats.

HONOURS

Liverpool

FA Cup: 2000–01, 2005–06
League Cup: 2000–01, 2002–03
FA Community Shield: 2001–02, 2006–07
UEFA Champions League: 2004–05
UEFA Cup: 2000–01
UEFA Super Cup: 2001–02, 2005–06

Individual

FWA Footballer of the Year: 2008–09
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 2005–06
PFA Young Player of the Year: 2000–01
PFA Fans' Player of the Year: 2000-01, 2008-09
PFA Team of the Year: 2000–01, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09
FA Premier League Player of the Month: March 2001, March 2003, December 2004, April 2006, March 2009
Goal of the Season: 2005-06
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2004–05
UEFA Champions League Final Man of the Match: 2004–05
UEFA Team of the Year: 2005, 2006, 2007
FA Cup Final Man of the Match: 2005–06
FIFPro World XI: 2006–07, 2007–08

DID YOU KNOW ... Steven Gerrard received an honorary scolarship from John Moores University for his contribution to sport?

Mike Maguire, Goal.com

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