I’ll let you into a secret. I have visions of Liverpool doing a parade of five trophies around the city next Sunday.
And there in front is a little glass Popemobile-type vehicle, leading the successful men’s and women’s teams around the entire route… with Steven Gerrard standing within, blessing the millions by the roadside. I messaged him to tell him that. All I will say is, he didn’t entirely rule it out; if we can all agree a slapping-the-face emoji is not ruling it out.
Oh, and he also suggested that instead of parking a bus in front of the Aston Villa goal on Sunday, he’s going to use my wallet instead. Which is errr, rich, coming from him. (I know, I know, but I couldn’t resist it!). You couldn’t make it up could you? He’s one of Liverpool’s greatest-ever players, and most certainly the greatest Liverpool player to never win the title. (What’s that, what about me? Ah c’mon, you know I’m modest!).
And here he is, taking his team to the Etihad to try and give his former club – and the club that is still in his heart – the chance to win the title. There’d be buckets if that was a film. There WILL be buckets if it happens on Sunday. When we spoke, I said if he takes points off City and Liverpool win the Premier League on the way to a quadruple, then I’d almost guarantee that the fans, en masse, would commission a statue of him to go alongside Shanks, behind the Kop. It would probably be up before the start of next season.
All joking aside (though I’m not joking about the statue, or his wallet) I know how much our old club is in his heart, because he’s the same as me. Well, nearly. I’m from Liverpool, he’s from Knowsley. That’s Lancashire isn’t it, so technically a wool. He feels the same as me about our club, because it gets in your blood. You can’t grow up there, live and breathe the whole history, and not be affected by it. Those amazing highs, the cruel lows. We’ve both had them.
Leaving was a wrench, no doubt. Leaving without achieving that dream we both had of lifting that League trophy just as all the greats had done, just as the teams we grew up watching did, hurt like hell. So I know how much that slip in 2014 when his team should have won the title must have skewered him. We’ve never spoken about it, but I know.
I’m not going to go all sentimental though, and say this game on Sunday is another chance, a chance of atonement, redemption or whatever. It isn’t. That’s history. Without wishing to burst the bubble of romance of it all, the actual blunt truth is, it’s a game he wants to win. For his old club yes, but mostly for his club, and himself as a manager.
I can tell you, even though people like me are on to him about it, he’s not thinking about this romantic picture I’m painting, he’s thinking purely about the tactics required to somehow stop City. As much as deep in his heart of course he knows what’s at stake for Liverpool and he’d like to help them win the title, what he’d really like is to help cement his position at Villa and his reputation as one of the up and coming managers.
I know that, because I felt something similar when I played against Liverpool. I loved the club, still do, always wanted them to do well. But when I faced them I only wanted to score and win… and celebrate too. There always that ruthless streak. Steven knows getting a result at City will help him do that.
There’s no doubt Patrick Vieira made waves when he twice took points off them this season. He’s a winner too, like all the great players he has an intense desire to succeed, especially on the big stage against the best. That doesn’t disappear when you hang up the boots.
What better stage, what better opponent than one of the most astute tactical masters in the game today? That’s why I’m clinging on to that dream of Liverpool parading four trophies around my city. Look, in reality, we all think it’s a bit of a long shot. Manchester City have been here before, many times now.
Yet I think back to the first one. QPR were relegation no hopers, apparently, the result an absolute foregone conclusion. Yet we all know what, happened, and it took one of the greatest moments in Premier League history for City to lift the title.
Point is there’s always a chance. And football just has this strange knack of writing the most incredible stories. That’s why there are statues outside stadiums…