Superhero captain requires vice captain to provide some aggression and a vocal presence to fill role previously filled by a departing hero. Apply to: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool FC.
SUPERHERO sidekicks usually pale in significance, power, and all round appeal to their gaffers. Whether it is Batman’s Robin, Captain America’s Bucky or Superman’s Jimmy Olsen, they are boyish innocents who play a subordinate role.
However, as Brendan Rodgers ponders who to appoint as the next Liverpool vice captain and the sidekick of our own Captain Fantastic, Steven Gerrard, the boss needs to break this mould. Rodgers needs to choose someone who can embody the ‘vice’ in their new title and bring just a little bit of the villain and a little bit of mind control to The Continuing Adventures of LFC. In short, the new sidekick needs to complement the marvel of Gerrard.
At the root of this need is the dynamic between Steven Gerrard and his former sidekick, Jamie Carragher.
Gerrard is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to grace the Anfield turf, and he pretty much has a full set of feathers to his bow when it comes to playing the game of football. However, whilst he is a very good Liverpool captain he is not a perfect one. In truth the captaincy of Liverpool has been shared in all but name by both Gerrard and Carragher over the years. Together they have forged a formidable captaining partnership in which the strengths of one have made up for the weaknesses of the other.
Indeed, Gerrard himself views the captaincy as a partnership and has recently been quoted as saying that he saw Carragher as an equal rather than a vice captain, and that they did the job as best they could between them.
Gerrard is the star player captain who will lead by example, who will run until his lungs burst and who will save our footballing world from crashing down on us by unleashing magic from his boots (each of which has its own little red cape) at the moment of our impending doom. You little beauty!
However, when it comes to verbally influencing the game, Carragher has been the vitally important ‘Bad Cop’ to Gerrard’s ‘Silently Pissed Off, I Can ‘t Believe You’re All So Bad, Cop’. Whilst Carragher may not have the star qualities or game changing physical ability of Gerrard he exerts control of proceedings from headquarters on the edge of the 18 yard box (and even deeper over the last few months). Carra is constantly barking orders and chastising players to keep them on their toes and ensuring he is the ear of the ref to fight our corner and sway a decision our way.
Don’t get me wrong, Gerrard does this to some degree, particularly if a decision is against him personally or he is competing at Old Trafford where he is counteracting the regular 50 yard runs of Rio Ferdinand to the referee to get involved in every single decision. But Gerrard just doesn’t attempt to verbally influence the game with anywhere near the consistency and intensity of Carragher.
Carra’s aggression has occasionally stepped over the line, such as when he threw a quid back into the crowd at Highbury and maimed 38,419 supporters. Or during his altercation with Arbeloa on the last day of the 2009/2010 season against West Brom. And arguably in the last couple of seasons you suspect that some of the anger vented at the defensive line could easily be interpreted his own apprehension at being left exposed. Nonetheless, he has generally struck the right balance, vocally exuding authority in an intelligent, and controlled but vociferous style to making up for Gerrard’s more reserved nature and leaving him to concentrate on footballing heroics. Neither may individually be the best captain in the world, but together they’re somewhere close.
So in effect, we now have to find another captain rather than someone who will just throw on the armband in League Cup games and pay lip service to the understudy role. Do not underestimate how much the departure of Carragher may affect Gerrard. If you have read various interviews you will know that he felt the same disappointments as fans and was gutted when Alonso and Torres left. Like Carragher, these were two players with which he had built up an excellent footballing relationship in which they mutually complemented each other and brought the best out of each others’ games. Did you ever see a better Gerrard than when he played alongside these two?
So Rodgers must fill the void with someone who possesses the qualities that Carragher did but Gerrard does not have in the same abundance. This is because simply put, Gerrard, entering the latter years of his career, is already having to adapt to aging limbs and the new style of play introduced by Rodgers. The last thing he needs at this stage is to start worrying about fulfilling the more vicious, shoutier captain duties Carragher has carried out on his behalf over recent years. He has spent much of his professional career carrying the burden of this club; now he just needs to concentrate on getting the best out of himself.
So who could save the day? Reina (assuming he is still here), Agger and Lucas are the names I’ve seen mentioned most on forums. These certainly all tick the boxes in regards that they are senior established Liverpool players, who to date have shown a commitment to the club and should have an understanding of it by now. Crucially, they are all good players respected by the majority of fans and by their peers. They would not look out of place wearing the armband in Gerrard’s absence. And with the exception of Reina they carry out their respective trades in central defence and central midfield; areas of the field which are the positional ideal to fulfil the captaincy role.
However when Oscar Wilde said, “He hadn’t a single redeeming vice”, he could easily have been speaking about any of these players. This is to say none of them have that vocally abrasive or manipulative edge which they can harness to positive effect.
Lucas seems such a nice guy that he’s more likely to instagram a picture of his family to the ref as an olive branch rather than dispute a penalty. Agger may have the tattoos, and shows flashes of aggression and authority but needs to maintain this and demonstrate it on a much more consistent basis. Reina probably has the correct personality but he also may be in Barcelona or warming the bench next season.
Throw in less obvious candidates like Johnson, Skrtel (if he’s still here) and Allen and you will still come up against the same personality issue. Ironically one of the most vocal players is currently Jordan Henderson, already captain of the England under 21s. But he will need to build on last year’s improved performances and get a greater number of supporters on side before he could realistically be considered.
Of all the options currently in the team I believe Agger is potentially the best- fit for Gerrard to form a new captaining duo, and is the most likely to make the step up.
But he now needs to get bitten by a radioactive spider or flown to earth in a big crystal from Krypton in order to build up those leadership powers. Either that or go and have a long chat with Dr Peters.
He needs to add a little vice and give Captain Fantastic a hand to save our Saturdays.