Steven Gerrard says the “open wound” created by Liverpool’s failure to win the Premier League in 2014 will not be healed even if Jurgen Klopp ends their 29-year wait for the title this season.
Captain Gerrard’s costly slip gifted Chelsea a goal at Anfield in a game that ended in defeat and ultimately led to Manchester City winning the title.
“This wound’s been open since my experience [in 2014],” said Gerrard.
“I hope Liverpool [win] but it won’t make my wound feel any different.”
Only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and defender Martin Skrtel played more times during that Premier League campaign than Gerrard, who is now manager of Scottish club Rangers. Only Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge scored more than his 13 Premier League goals.
But his season, for some his entire career, was defined in that one moment as Chelsea forward Demba Ba seized on Gerrard’s failure to keep his feet five years ago when Liverpool’s destiny was in their own hands.
“I don’t over-think and drive myself crazy over it but at the same time, I have been honest and open,” said Gerrard. “It was such a big year. It was the trophy that eluded me so of course I am always going to look back and wish it was different.”
‘Fans a help not a hindrance’
Gerrard left Liverpool in 2015 after 17 years at the club.
He spent two seasons in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy, then retired in 2017 and returned to Anfield as Under-18 coach before accepting the manager’s job at Rangers last summer.
Gerrard, 38, still keeps in touch with some of his old team-mates and says “the door is open” to any Liverpool player who wants to chat about his experiences of title run-ins.
As a local lad, the former England skipper understands completely how desperate Liverpool’s fans are to end the near three-decade wait for a 19th title.
But, rather being than a suffocating negative for Liverpool’s players, Gerrard feels the Anfield support should be an uplifting positive.
“It is normal that the supporters want it more than anyone,” he said.
“I was a local, a supporter who had been there since I was seven. It was difficult for me at times but I didn’t feel suffocated by the fans. I saw it as a help rather than a hindrance because they were right behind us.
“The team have a great leader in Jurgen who, I am sure, is trying to take a lot of pressure and anxiety away from them.”
‘Sometimes you have to say the better team won’
Gerrard is keen to avoid turning Liverpool’s season into a success or failure purely on the basis of where they finish in the table.
With nine games to go, they have 70 points, which is more than they have managed in 17 Premier League seasons.
It is conceivable they could exceed their Premier League best tally of 86 points and still find it is not enough to finish ahead of Manchester City.
Gerrard said: “Certain people around the world will see it as failure but that is football and opinions. Jurgen has taken the squad forward giant strides. He is doing everything he can.
“Sometimes in football, if someone beats you to it, just, you have to hold your hands up and say the better team won.
“I hope that is not the case but I don’t think you can be too critical if you have been fantastic yourself and have done ever so well to be in it in the first place.”
‘Sleeping is more difficult’
Gerrard has his own job at Rangers to occupy him and no-one could accuse him of taking his management career lightly.
At 16:00 GMT on Sunday, Gerrard was dealing with post-match duties at Aberdeen following his side’s 1-1 draw in the Scottish Cup.
By 09:00 GMT on Monday, he was at St George’s Park in Staffordshire, a drive of 410 miles, to attend the latest session of his Pro-Licence coaching course.
A number of Gerrard’s former England team-mates have started on the management path in recent times, most recently Paul Scholes at Oldham.
But there is one close friend he expected to see in the dug-out by now who has swerved the post-career move.
“I thought Jamie Carragher was a stonewall [certainty] at one point, given his knowledge of the game, but I got that wrong,” he said.
Told he looks less stressed than most managers, Gerrard smiles ruefully. “You obviously haven’t seen me enough.
“The biggest eye opener is the amount of thinking you have to do. Finding downtime to get away from it is difficult. I wouldn’t call it stress and I am enjoying it but there is no doubt sleeping is more difficult.
“It’s a 24-hour job and it is one that I want to do to my best.”