Gerrard Seeks Perfect Send-off

Published: 06th February 2015 09:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th February 2015 09:59 AM   |  A+A-


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Steven Gerrard can take his time to consider a new contract on offer from the club. AP

Everton manager Roberto Martinez could be forgiven for arranging the visa, booking the taxi and accompanying Steven Gerrard to the departure lounge to ensure he boards his flight to Los Angeles this summer. Goodison Park will bid farewell to a nemesis tomorrow (Saturday).

Future loan deal permitting, the Liverpool captain faces Everton for the last time seeking to preserve one of the most impressive Merseyside derby records of anyone to have regularly played in the fixture.

"They will be glad to see the back of him," was the conclusion of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, with good cause.

Since his derby debut in 1999, Gerrard has faced Everton 32 times in all competitions, losing a mere five. In the Premier League, he will be meeting his neighbours for the 30th time tomorrow. He has only four league defeats over the course of 16 years - three of those at Goodison.

He has scored 10 goals, including the first hat-trick since Ian Rush in his prime, won countless man-of-the-match awards and led Liverpool to victory in their only Wembley meeting of his career, the FA Cup semi-final of 2012.

What makes these statistics more notable is how they compare to what immediately preceded Gerrard on Merseyside derby day. He broke into the side shortly after the much-maligned Spice Boys era when Liverpool were consistently struggling to get the better of Everton, often accused of lacking the physicality of their rivals. It was a period when Duncan Ferguson was perceived as the emblem of the fixture, pre-match and post-match discussions almost exclusively dominated by how successful Liverpool had dealt with Everton's talismanic striker.

In the 11 derbies prior to Gerrard's debut, Liverpool had lost four and won one. There was an imbalance.

It is no coincidence that the presence of Gerrard - alongside that of Jamie Carragher - gave Liverpool an intensity they had been missing during their previous indifferent spell.

As Gerrard prepares for his last appearance, the lingering question will remain as to how much the innate local understanding of what it means to play in - and win - a Merseyside derby will go with him.

"He has been an incredible performer in these games," said Rodgers. "He will approach it wanting to win the game for his club, as he always has. He will deal with it as all the other derbies, with a focus to get a result.

"I've been involved in a few of the games over the last 21/2 years and they are wonderful to be involved in. They are so fast and full of emotion and the quality of the football is outstanding under real intense pressure."

For Martinez, there is a trend to reverse. "I'm not too concerned what has been the record for the last 20 years, I'm more concerned about what the record is going to be in the next 20 years," he said. "I'm looking forward and working ahead rather than looking back at the derbies.

"The only thing that matters to us is the game we can effect and that is the one in front of us. I always said that if you want to grow as a team, you need a strong rival and a strong rivalry. We had that last season. I think that, looking to the future, we can benefit from each other's ambitions."

Where Everton have hope, and Liverpool must have trepidation longer term, is that Ross Barkley looks the most natural successor to Gerrard in ensuring the fixture retains its high-class Scouse heartbeat.

"We have a few of the most exciting youngsters in English football," said Martinez. "When you look at Ross Barkley, John Stones, players that have got that freshness, that bravery, they haven't got the experience, but they have the opposite end where they have the desire to be on the pitch and create history.

"I think our team has a got a really good mixture of strong, experienced pros that know what it means to play for Everton in a derby."

If tomorrow is about Liverpool trying to give Gerrard the ideal derby send-off, for Martinez it is about ensuring he is a postscript.

"Our intention is to make it our game," he said. "There is going to be a lot of talk about that aspect of the game but the only thing that matters to us is to try to use this game as a real springboard for our season. It's all about what we do internally.

"If we were playing at Anfield, it would be a harder game in terms of us wanting to affect it, but we are at Goodison and we can affect it from the beginning."

Rodgers, meanwhile, is considering whether to give Daniel Sturridge his first start in five months after two

successful substitute appearances.

"He is not far away from starting. I need to speak with my staff and

Daniel and make a decision," said Rodgers. "If he wasn't to start at

Everton, then he would be in with a great chance to start against Tottenham [on Tuesday]."

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