Say what you will, but Steven Gerrard’s retirement from international football for England has been a long time coming – far too long. Like so many other England players who have had storied careers at club level, Gerrard truly never reproduced that form to help England break the jinx of 1966.
There is no denying that Gerrard is one of the best central players the Premier League has ever seen. His 173 goals in 669 total appearances for Liverpool continue to capture the hearts and minds of every Reds supporter around. He has won two FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, the Champions League (once), the UEFA Cup (once) and two UEFA Super Cups. His list of personal accolades and awards is even more distinguished…and then you come to his international track record.
Much like Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and so many other England internationals, he could never put on the shirt for the Three Lions and get it done when his country needed him most. Yes he bagged himself 21 goals in 114 caps for England (numbers which are good for a central midfielder), but over half of those came in qualifiers – and if you know who England always get drawn against in the qualifying stage, scoring against the likes of Macedonia is not all that impressive. Only four of Gerrard’s goals came in major tournaments, and only one since 2006.
Not only has his continued selection for the national team been predicated on his success at club level, but despite his inconsistent (at best) form for England, he remained an integral part of England wheel based on name and not merit (ring a bell?) The only fond memory I have of him was his performance against Germany in England’s famous 5-1 win during qualifying for the 2002 World Cup where he scored his first goal for his country.
Yes England are losing an iconic figure, but this is certainly for the best. Gerrard’s retirement means Roy Hodgson now has to think long and hard on who the right players are for England in the central role, something he never had to do previously given the notion that Gerrard, as captain and through reputation, was first on the team-sheet. His retirement opens the door for the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, and even players such as Fabian Delph and Tom Huddlestone, who are not yet in the fold for England but can become important pieces of the puzzle.
When Paul Scholes retired, I was sad (and there is a reason why managers tried to get him to come out of retirement) and even when David Beckham hug his boots up I was rather disappointed. But if you know my opinions on Wayne Rooney by now, you should understand that my opinions of Gerrard are much the same. Until England players stop being relied upon despite being poor for the national team, England will never go anywhere – Gerrard’s retirement is a step in the right direction to changing that narrative.