SPORT TALK: Gerrard moving on, a drawn-out FA Cup and NUFC’s manager...again

Blyth Spartans defend a Birmingham City attack. Picture by Bill Broadley.
Blyth Spartans defend a Birmingham City attack. Picture by Bill Broadley.

As part of England’s so-called Golden Generation which never really fulfilled its potential, on the international stage at least, Steven Gerrard is one of the country’s most talked-about footballers of the past 15 years.

Needless to say, the announcement of his leaving his beloved Liverpool at the end of the season and the news that he is planning to head to the US sparked big headlines in the world of sport.

Anytime that this kind of declaration is made, attention inevitably turns to legacy and assessing the impact that the player actually had.

Now I would not be one to deny Gerrard the credit he is due for his services to the Anfield club and indeed England, but anyone thinking that moving on this summer is not the right thing to do should perhaps ponder the 34-year-old’s best moments.

The two clearest matches that come to my mind and will definitely live on as Gerrard’s legacy are the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005 and the FA Cup final in 2006 where he, practically alone, denied West Ham the trophy at the point when all seemed lost.

Both of those are now nearly a decade ago and the Gerrard moment I will remember from last season – when the Reds came so close to defying the odds and winning the Premier League (the one thing missing from his club trophy cabinet) – is the slip against Chelsea allowing Demba Ba to score which proved so costly in the title run-in.

Of course, that shouldn’t define his whole season or career, but who can name me an inspirational, world-beating Gerrard performance in the past couple of years?

The move to the United States is an interesting one though given Frank Lampard’s recent ‘move that wasn’t a move’ to New York and subsequent rebirth as a pretty key member of the Manchester City squad, particularly this month with Yaya Touré off to the Africa Cup of Nations. Will Steven Gerrard be pulling on a Manchester United shirt ahead of scoring at Anfield next season?

• Countless times over the weekend, commentators and pundits referred to the FA Cup Third Round as ‘one of the best days/weekends in the football calendar’.

Most of the time, I would be inclined to agree, apart from the fact that it’s not a day, nor even a weekend. This year, you could hardly describe it as a long weekend, given it runs for five days from last Friday until tomorrow.

Some will say it is to do with television, but none of the games on Saturday were on, nor Friday’s ties, so what is the point?

Others blamed fixture congestion, but Leicester and Newcastle played each other on Saturday despite having played on New Year’s Day, while the Championship, League One and League Two clubs had not played on January 1.

Whatever the reasons, it really takes the buzz away from what should be a great weekend to have such a spread of games, especially when some take place after the draw for the fourth round.

Finally on the ‘world’s greatest club competition’, it was a sterling effort from Blyth Spartans on Saturday, but unfortunately the quality of the higher-league side won out in the end. As Gateshead discovered, the gulf between the non-league sides and those at the top of the tree is bigger than ever.

• It was defeat at Leicester following a point at home to Burnley as the Carver era gets under way at St James’ Park.

Following on from my concerns about the club’s future leadership last week, it appears that I may have been right with the former assistant the only one saying he wants it and Steve McClaren – a former Middlesbrough manager – saying ‘no thanks’.

In another ‘told you so’ to the Sack Pardew brigade, many were dismayed that Hatem Ben Arfa was sent out on loan to Hull City this season. But when a struggling side with so many injuries remains unconvinced and he heads back to France, I think it’s right to say he wasn’t perhaps cut out for the Premier League.