Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had no idea it was the 16th anniversary of Steven Gerrard’s debut and felt bad leaving him out of the team for the 1-0 win over Stoke.
However, the captain was on the pitch when the winner was scored by Glen Johnson five minutes from time to end a three-match losing streak in the Premier League.
“I wasn’t aware it was 16 years until I walked into the dressing room and saw the programme,” said the Reds boss. “I spoke to him yesterday and he didn’t mention it so I felt bad when I saw about 20 pictures on the programme.
“Steven is in a part of his career when he is not going to play every minute of every game.
“He played Palace and he played Ludogorets when he was outstanding and put in a huge amount of effort, and we have other players here who can come in and do a job and Steven understands that.
“I need to look at each game. We have good players that are fresh. He came on and gave a great contribution towards the end and his experience and stature in the game helped us at that point, but I thought the team overall was excellent.”
Gerrard’s contract expires at the end of this season and the 34-year-old has said he is not yet prepared to hang up his boots, like close friend Jamie Carragher did the season before last.
But with questions being asked about how much longer Gerrard can be effective at the highest level, a new deal may not be as straightforward as it once was.
“Not that I am aware of,” was Rodgers’ response when asked whether there had been any progress on a new contract.
“I think the club is talking with Steven’s representatives so there is no update on that.”
Today's programme, marking 16 years since Gerrard's debut. pic.twitter.com/znekSYYxtY
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After a turgid first half performance the Reds improved after the break, but it took Johnson’s diving header after Rickie Lambert’s header had bounced down off the crossbar to finally break the deadlock.
But Liverpool were also indebted to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, whose high-profile blunder in midweek against Ludogorets only increased the spotlight on him after some indifferent performances.
The Belgian made one brilliant close-range save to deny Mame Biram Diouf just before Johnson struck while Bojan Krkic also hit a post. “He has made a couple of great saves. We asked him to simplify his game and do what he is good at, which is shot-stopping,” said Rodgers.
“He came for a couple of crosses at the end when the pressure was on and he made a couple of great saves, and I am very pleased for him as he is a very good guy who is working hard at his game.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes was deflated he could not break the Potters’ woeful run at Anfield, where they have not won a top-flight match in 51 attempts and last scored in 1983. “We feel a little bit disappointed. We put a huge effort in,” he said.
“Our record here hasn’t been great. We thought this was a real opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get a positive result.
“In the first half Liverpool created very little. In the second half it became more open because we were looking for a winner.”