Steven Gerrard announced his international retirement on Monday, following 14 years in an England shirt. Henry Jackson explains exactly why this decision is great news for Liverpool next season.
Since the turn of the century, Steven Gerrard has been an England player. That was until Monday, when the 34-year-old decided to hang up his boots at international level and concentrate solely on Liverpool.
He may never quite have hit the consistent heights that he has produced in a Reds shirt, but there hasn’t been a more committed, passionate performer in a Three Lions shirt over the last 14 years.
Gerrard’s decision is an extremely positive one for Liverpool, as it allows the skipper a number of crucial rest periods throughout the season now. At his age that is crucial.
He no longer has to deal with the strain and expectation of being England captain- he looked extremely jaded in Brazil- and with Champions League football returning to Anfield he has enough on his plate with Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard no longer has to play for fans who routinely take the piss out of him during the season. Good.
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) July 21, 2014
With age not on his side, it would have been mad for Gerrard to lead Roy Hodgson’s side into another assault on a major tournament. It was the perfect time to call it a day.
You only have to look at several other truly great England players who retired from international duty in order to prolong their club careers.
Reds legend Jamie Carragher called it a day at the age of 32, following the 2010 World Cup, deciding that it was pointless sitting on the England bench when he could be at home preparing for Liverpool matches.
You have to wonder whether Carragher would have enjoyed such a terrific resurgence in form in his final season at Anfield had he carried on playing for England.
Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes, unquestionably two of the finest English players of their generation, weren’t even 30 when they played their final game for the Three Lions in 2000 and 2004, respectively.
Both went on to play Premier League football for years, remaining key players during that time. It seems highly unlikely that they would have been as effective for so long had they kept playing internationally.
The same applies to Ryan Giggs, although admittedly playing for Wales wasn’t nearly as stressful or frequent as representing England.
Good decision by Steven Gerrard, 114 caps great servant for England.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) July 21, 2014
You only have to look at England’s 2014/15 fixture schedule to see how full-on Gerrard’s campaign would have been had he stayed on as England captain.
The Premier League season will be just a couple of weeks old when England start their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
A friendly with Norway (3rd September) and then their opening qualifier away to Switzerland (8th September) would have represented a needless distraction for Gerrard, who will instead have two weeks off between Liverpool’s trip to Tottenham (31st August) and the visit of Aston Villa (13th September).
The Champions League group stage also starts three days after the Villa match, which Gerrard is sure to play a pivotal part in.
The Three Lions then reconvene a month later for clashes with San Marino (9th October) and Estonia (12th October), which are sandwiched between a visit to West Brom (4th October) and a home game against newly-promoted QPR (19th October) for the Reds. The third group game of the Champions League will take place a few days later too.
A qualifier against Slovenia (15th November) at Wembley and a friendly away to Scotland (18th November) follow, and if Gerrard were still playing for England he would have to tackle a very tricky schedule around that time.
Prior to those two England games Liverpool entertain Chelsea (8th November) in a huge game that holds unhappy memories for the Reds skipper, before an equally haunting trip to Crystal Palace (23rd November) awaits following the Scotland game.
Selhurst Park is an extremely tough place to visit, as Liverpool found out all too painfully last season, and the last thing Brendan Rodgers would want for a physical game like this is a jaded Gerrard following two weeks of gruelling England duty.
It’s also worth noting that the penultimate group game of the Champions League is just a few days after the Palace game as well, which has every chance of being crucial for Liverpool.
England don’t play again until March, when they entertain Lithuania (27th March), and by this point the domestic season really will be at its business end.
On the Saturday before that game at Wembley, the Reds host Manchester United (21st March) in what is historically Liverpool’s biggest game of the season.
Then, the weekend after, Rodgers’ men travel to the Emirates to face an Arsenal side likely to be battling with Liverpool somewhere near the top of the table by that point in the campaign.
Whereas Gerrard would have had to report for international duty previously, between two huge league games, he will now have two weeks to recharge his batteries.
In total, the 34-year-old will avoid seven England games during the 2014/15 season, allowing himself four different sets of two-week breaks. That makes a huge difference for any 34-year-old at the top level.
The 114-time capped midfielder’s decision to end his international career should ensure he remains an integral part of Rodgers’ plans well into his 30s, emulating the likes of Carragher, Shearer, Scholes and Giggs in the process.
It’s terrific news for everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club.
How long do you think Steven Gerrard will remain a Liverpool player for? Let us know in the comments section.