Gerrard dismisses importance of Merseyside derby this season
Finishing sixth is nothing to celebrate says Liverpool skipper ahead of meeting with Everton
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: Listen, if Everton finish above us and their supporters are really happy and their players and everyone is really happy, then that’s up to them. Photograph: Getty Images
The question being asked is whether the balance of power will have shifted on Merseyside should Everton finish above Liverpool for the second successive season.
The brutal answer is that power cannot shift when it has already slipped along the M62. David Moyes is among those who fears two historic clubs are in danger of being left behind.
An Everton win at Anfield tomorrow would be their first since 1999 and guarantee a finish above their wealthier, local rivals. The last time that happened two seasons in a row with Everton and Liverpool in the same division was in 1936 and 1937, and a repeat in the financially doped Premier League era would represent a victory of sorts for Moyes. There will be no open-top bus parade.
Steven Gerrard recoiled when the introductory question was put to him this week. His answer might be interpreted by sensitive souls as a sour dig at Everton, and naturally the Liverpool captain was defending Liverpool’s corner, but his honest, factually correct assessment was more about Merseyside’s current frustration as outsiders looking in than point scoring in derby week. On the task of overhauling Everton, Gerrard said: “That’s in everyone’s head at the moment, short-term. But you know, sixth or seventh is not a real big deal is it?”
Back came the question about power shifting on Merseyside. Gerrard retorted: “Yes, but they (Everton) haven’t won anything have they? It’s nothing to finish sixth or seventh in this league. Listen, if Everton finish above us and their supporters are really happy and their players and everyone is really happy, then that’s up to them. But if we finish above Everton there will be no celebrating or anything around here because it’s nothing really. It’s no big deal. We want to win the derby, of course we do. We want to finish above Everton, of course we do. But in the big picture is it really, really important? I don’t know . . . maybe not.”
Gerrard did insist that the most played derby in English league football, tomorrow’s is the 188th league meeting between the teams and the 220th in total, remains “a special game”.
But the days when a spring Merseyside derby influenced the destiny of the title, days that Gerrard grew up with, are gone. One obvious, influential reason is the financial might of the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea. But with Tottenham and Arsenal also pushing Merseyside behind the leading lights in London, the explanation runs deeper.
Moyes admits: “Merseyside is third behind Manchester and London at the moment. The strength the Manchester clubs have got has overpowered everybody. With Chelsea joining in and Tottenham too, and then Arsenal have their quality, it is a tough ask to compete against that.
“But Liverpool have been very close to it. It wasn’t too long ago, in 2009 under Rafa (Benitez), that they were second, so football can change very quickly. Liverpool have been much, much closer than we were to the Manchester teams but we’ve maybe had a longer journey to come.
“We’ve been climbing from a lot further away and we have closed that gap. We’re not close enough, but we are getting closer.”