From the editor’s notebook …
Such was the case this week with the surprising and disappointing news that Steven Gerrard will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the Premier League season and plans to finish his career with a club in Major League Soccer.
“This has been the toughest decision of my life and one which both me and my family have agonised over for a good deal of time,” Gerrard said in announcing the move. “I am making the announcement now so that the manager and the team are not distracted by stories or speculation about my future.”
While Gerrard is obviously not the player he once was, it will still be strange to see him in another club’s kit after wearing Liverpool red for 17 years.
“He has been a brilliant captain for me in my time here,” manager Brendan Rodgers told The Daily Mail. “I naturally want him to stay here. His role is slightly different now, he still sees himself waiting to go on and play for a couple of years. Naturally at this level it was going to taper over the next couple of years.
‘He wasn’t ready to go into coaching or anything like that yet. He sees himself very much as a player. When he finishes as a player then we can look at coaching then as he is someone who would be brilliant to come back as part of the staff. But his concentration at the moment is on his football.”
We only arrived at the party in recent years so we missed the early part of Gerrard’s career, but even if his game has been in decline the past few years it was easy to see his influence and importance to the club.
In 685 appearances (and counting) with the club, Gerrard has scored 180 goals. His 116 league goals are the second-most by a midfielder, and his 31 goals from the penalty spot are third-most, as are his 36 goals from outside the penalty area.
Gerrard saved his best for the big moments. His five league goals at Old Trafford are the most by an away player against Manchester United, and his nine goals against Everton are the most in the Merseyside derby. Thirty-six of his league goals won Liverpool the match, and another 28 earned the club a draw.
He also collected numerous trophies along the way, most notably raising the Champions League trophy in Istanbul in 2005. But it was the one trophy – the Premier League title – that escaped him throughout his career and in some people’s minds will define his time at Liverpool.
We’ll leave it to other, more-knowledgeable people to decide where Gerrard ranks among Liverpool’s greats. There is no question that he belongs in the conversation, but the fact that he never won a league championship probably keeps him from being at the top of the list.
That doesn’t diminish what Gerrard meant to his club, however, and he will certainly be missed.
A fun day of bowl games
Michigan State’s comeback against Baylor and the overtime contest between Auburn and Wisconsin were fun appetizers to start the day, but were nothing compared to the two semifinal games.
Irregardless of who you were rooting for, Oregon’s win over Florida State and Ohio State’s game against Alabama were wildly entertaining and set the bar pretty high for the national championship game on Jan. 12 against Oregon and Ohio State.
The downside to the bowl season is that one team has to walk off the field with a loss, putting a sour end to what for some teams was an otherwise sweet season.
Mississippi was a perfect example of that as they were beaten badly by TCU. The Rebels never overcame the loss of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to an injury and, after a strong start to the season, finished the year by losing four of their final six games.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had a horrible day against TCU, finishing just 10-of-23 for 109 yards, while throwing three interceptions and being sacked five times.
During the game our Twitter timeline was filled with comments about how Wallace’s performance was the worst ever by a quarterback in a bowl game. Wallace’s performance was bad, for sure, but it didn’t come close to the performance that Ohio State’s Troy Smith put on against Florida in the 2007 national title game. That night, Smith was four-of-14 for 35 yards, with an interception and five sacks.
How soon people forget.
(And yet there are still people who advocate for the Browns to sign Smith, despite the fact that he washed out of the NFL and currently is riding the bench in the Canadian Football League.)