Ovation water under Bridge for Gerrard as Champions League hopes ended
Liverpool captain plays down applause from Chelsea fans when taken off near end
Steven Gerrard shrugged off an unprecedented show of appreciation from the Chelsea support as Liverpool’s faint hopes of securing Champions League football were effectively dashed despite the captain’s first goal in a decade against these opponents.
The home fans, who had chorused regular reminders of Gerrard’s critical slip in the clubs’ meeting last May as well as his lack of Premier League titles, had offered the visitors’ captain a standing ovation upon his substitution 11 minutes from time on his final appearance in this arena.
José Mourinho joined in the applause and gave those in the Matthew Harding Stand a thumbs up for the reception granted a player he had attempted to sign four times.
Yet Gerrard, described as “irreplaceable” by Brendan Rodgers, was less inclined to forget the abuse he has endured at those supporters’ hands over the years.
“I was more happy with the ovation from the Liverpool fans,” said the former England captain, who will move to Los Angeles Galaxy upon the expiry of his contract this summer. “The Chelsea fans showed respect for a couple of seconds for me, but slaughtered me all game so I’m not going to get drawn into wishing the Chelsea fans well. It’s nice of them to turn up for once today. A standing ovation from a stadium is always nice but what’s important to me is the Liverpool fans and they have been there since day one.”
“The negative song only shows respect, nothing other than respect,” he said. “It’s like a negative song to a dear enemy. The applause was special, Stamford Bridge was special. Steve has been getting that [appreciation] for almost two decades every week when he plays at Anfield. To get that in an away stadium is a fantastic way for him to feel.”
The Chelsea manager had tried to secure the midfielder for the London club in 2004 and 2005, and again when he was coaching at Internazionale and Real Madrid. “I have got huge respect for him,” said Gerrard. “He is the best manager in the world for me. I’d have signed for him if I wasn’t a Liverpool fan, if Liverpool weren’t in my heart. He is reason why my head was turned on a couple of occasions, but he understood why I couldn’t do it and it’s because I love Liverpool.”
Asked if he ever still wondered what might have been, Gerrard added: “I did at the time but I always said to myself, when I sat down with my dad and my brother, that if I win a couple of trophies at Liverpool it will mean an awful lot more to me than if I won 10 at Chelsea or Inter Milan or Real Madrid. It always means more when you win for your people.”
The Liverpool captain had led his team out to form a guard of honour for their hosts, as Premier League champions, but ended up contemplating a lack of Champions League football next term. “The guard of honour is not nice when you are doing it for other people, but this football club has always shown respect and the guard of honour comes with tradition,” he added.