On announcing his retirement from football, Steven Gerrard spoke of heeding the advice of those he respected by calling it quits whilst there is still something in the tank. I would consider that sound advice and wise of Gerrard to follow it.
As a Liverpool fan, there was reason to be excited about Gerrard from the very beginning and not just because he was a local lad and life-long fan of the club. It was immediately clear that this was a player of precocious talent, with a working class swagger that meant he was never overawed by the more experienced and established names around him at club and international level.
For Liverpool, he racked up 710 appearances and scored 186 goals in an incredible career for the Reds that began in 1998 and ended in 2015. Along the way, he won the Champions League in 2005, the UEFA Cup in 2001, as well as two FA Cups and three League Cups. Much will be made of him never winning the Premier League, despite coming close a couple of times, but the seven trophies he won with his boyhood club will always mean more than any trophy he would have won if he’d have moved elsewhere.
From his famous strike against Olympiakos in the Champions League, to his unbelievable injury time equaliser in the 2006 FA Cup Final and one of my personal favourites, a sublime control and shot from 30 yards against Middlesbrough, Gerrard has provided many memorable moments and goals to go with some super-human personal performances.
Gerrard has a playing career that ranks amongst the greats safely in the bank, but what next?
He’s made no secret of the fact that he would like to remain in football and has been progressing through his coaching badges. He was recently approached by MK Dons to take over as Manager of the League One side, but wisely turned down the offer. Quite refreshingly, he didn’t turn it down because he wants a Premier League job, but because the offer came too soon and he is looking to work on his coaching first.
Too many ex-pros take the express route into management, without the solid foundation of coaching and perhaps crucially, the ability analyse games and be able to learn and adapt from it. Just because footballers have been involved in thousands of training sessions, it doesn’t mean they know how to structure, organise and run them – let alone decipher what their specific purpose should be. It’s for this reason that I applaud Gerrard and willingness to learn and develop his coaching repertoire before making the move into management.
It’s an approach I’d like to see more former players take, as there’s so much more to elite level management than just making an impassioned speech or commanding respect because of your name; those qualities have a very short shelf life. Take a look at the top of the Premier League and you will see clubs managed by non-British managers with an excellent fundamental coaching base. The fast tracking of British players into management has not been successful in the modern game, so perhaps a more studied approach could be the way ahead for British players getting back into contention for the top jobs again. Naturally, there are no guarantees he will become a great coach or manager, but at least it seems the approach is a sensible one.
As for Gerrard, I’d love to see him work with Liverpool’s Academy and cut his teeth with the young players there; who would fully engage with everything he has to offer. Away from the spotlight of the first team, it could be great for his coaching development, especially with Jürgen Klopp and his coaching staff within reach and beneficial for the Academy too. Imagine the excitement young players will have at the prospect of joining and working with a legendary player with ambitions to become a great coach. With Under 16’s, under 18’s and the under 23 squads, there is a natural ladder of progression already in place for him.
The story of Steven Gerrard the player may now be over, but the story of Steven Gerrard the coach may be only just beginning.