Liverpool’s 100 club
Gerrard will join an illustrious list of Liverpool players to have earned 100 international caps. The Reds captain is, however, the first man to pick up 100 caps playing exclusively for Liverpool. Below is a list of Anfield’s other 100-club members:
Kenny Dalglish (Scotland) 102 (55 at Liverpool)
Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland, right) 122 (4)
Steve Staunton (Republic of Ireland) 102 (38)
Xabi Alonso (Spain) 106 (49)
Fernando Torres (Spain) 101 (40)
John Arne Riise (Norway) 108 (64)
Sami Hyypia (Finland) 105 (71)
Jari Litmanen (Finland) 137 (10)
Rigobert Song (Cameroon) 137 (14)
STEVEN GERRARD’S nerves had got the better of him. Sat on the edge of his hotel bed, panic was setting in. And fast.
He was 19-years-old, a rookie, trembling at the thought of walking into a room full of seasoned England internationals, made ill by the prospect of eating lunch alongside them. “How could this newcomer just stroll into the dining room and sit next to David Beckham?” he wondered.
It took the support of Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen to convince the teenager he was safe in such company. His Liverpool team-mates introduced the new-boy to his new colleagues.
“Without them, I would have spun on my heels and raced back north,” Gerrard would later admit.
Twelve years on, the nerves have vanished. Gerrard knows he belongs. But there may be one or two butterflies in the stomach this evening, as he prepares to step into the pantheon of true England greats.
Tonight will, barring any last-minute hiccups, see Gerrard collect his 100th England cap, leading his country in their international friendly against Sweden in Stockholm. He will become just the sixth player in English football history to achieve such a landmark.
The other five, of course, provide illustrious company. Peter Shilton, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Billy Wright would all be instant picks for any all-time England XI, while David Beckham’s modern-day contribution to the national team should never be understated, even if his international career ended as something of a circus.
Gerrard’s, in contrast, is showing little sign of slowing. At 32, the marauding runs, crunching tackles and long-range thunderbolts may need to be managed a little more subtly, but his importance to Roy Hodgson’s squad is undiminished. There are no sentimental caps here. Gerrard has earned every ounce of praise that will come his way after this evening.
He will arrive in Sweden as the only surviving member of England’s “Golden Generation” – though both Ashley Cole, himself on 99 caps, and Wayne Rooney, of that group, remain on the scene – a player whose international career has bridged eras and stood the test of time.
His debut, against Ukraine in May 2000, came at the old Wembley, in a team managed by Kevin Keegan and captained by Alan Shearer. Tonight, he is the elder statesman, the leader of a new-look side which could, in Gerrard’s Liverpool colleague Raheem Sterling, contain a player 15 years his junior.
There have been World Cups (two) and European Championships (three) along the way. Gerrard is one of only a handful of England players to have played in five major international tournaments, and one of eight to have scored in successive World Cups.
There have been lows, too. Forced to miss the 2002 World Cup after undergoing groin surgery, Gerrard missed a crucial penalty as England were eliminated from the 2006 tournament by Portugal at the quarter-final stage.
He was skipper as Steve McClaren’s brief reign as manager unravelled with defeat to Croatia in the Wembley rain in 2007, and then when Fabio Capello’s sole tournament in charge ended in humiliation at the hands of Germany three years later.
But to remember the lowlights at this moment in time would be churlish, to say the least. Better, surely, to think of the driving runs, the memorable goals, the quiet yet inspirational leadership. Gerrard has scored 19 times for his country, claiming as many assists. Trophies may have eluded him on the international stage, but he deserves to go down as one of England’s greatest.
It may be that he will be forever remember for his feats with club, rather than country. But that is hardly surprising. England fans may find it hard to worship modern internationals, given the strength of club rivalries nowadays, but they have been spoiled by having a player of Gerrard’s talent to enjoy for so long.
He won’t go on forever, of course.
He will be 34 by the time the next World Cup rolls around, and there are reams of young hopefuls desperate to elbow their way into Hodgson’s plans over the coming months and years.
One thing is for sure, though. When these youngsters are first afforded the chance to dine with England, it will be Steven Gerrard they are in awe of. And rightly so.
STEVIE G’S ENGLAND HIGHLIGHTS
v Ukraine (May 2000, Wembley) It seems unthinkable that, having made his Liverpool senior debut in 1998, it should have taken almost two years for Gerrard to grab his first England cap. He did so in a pre-Euro 2000 warm up against the Ukraine, playing 81 minutes before being replaced by another young hopeful, Kieron Dyer.
v Germany (September 2001, Munich) The highlight of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s five-year reign, and the game which saw Gerrard net his first international goal. Chesting down Rio Ferdinand’s header 30 yards out, the 21-year-old Gerrard slashed a stunning strike low past Oliver Kahn. England went on to win 5-1.
v Sweden (March 2004, Gothenburg) “It felt like a World Cup final,” said Gerrard of a night which saw him captain his country for the first time. The game, though, was something of a non-event. Alan Thompson won his only England cap, as did Anthony Gardner, while Jlloyd Samuel was on the bench.
v Trinidad & Tobago (June 2006, Nuremburg) Having missed out on the 2002 World Cup through injury, Gerrard was desperate to make amends four years later in Germany. After Peter Crouch had opened the scoring, his Liverpool captain sealed the win with a long-range screamer.
vUSA (June 2010, Phokeng) Gerrard would captain his country in South Africa after Rio Ferdinand suffered a knee injury prior to the tournament, and took just four minutes of England’s opening game to make his mark, collecting Emile Heskey’s flick to score (above).