While it would be easy to say that we were "rocked" by the news that Steven Gerrard is out for the rest of the season, we can tamper that down a bit. First, there wasn't much left on the table this season and so there isn't much to lose out on with Gerrard unfit. Second, I think we've all become used to Gerrard missing time by this point. So it's disappointing for sure, but utterly shocking and suicide-provoking? Sadly, no.
What does need to be answered is where do Liverpool go from here in regard to their captain. When next season rolls around, he's going to be 30. What's his shelf life? Certainly, the days of Gerrard single-handedly pulling us out of game after game are gone. How many were there this year? Napoli at home? Can you think of another? He was excellent against Man U at home, and that appears to be his last appearance. He almost did it at Old Trafford, too. But consistently, who knows?
What makes it even more confusing is that his most effective position, that of the one just behind a lone attacker, is one that he increasingly won't be able to man. It requires a mobility and speed that an aging Stevie G with a lot of miles on him already just isn't going to have much of. Can he adjust his game to be deeper in midfield? That's where he spent most of the year, but under Hodgson it was far too deep. Would Dalglish have gotten him higher up the pitch if he had him more often? We don't know.
One could easily point to Ryan Giggs as an example of someone who can transform himself to extend his career longer than expected (I will not hear anything about Paul Scholes, as it's been proven time and time again that when he's come up against an opponent that's not full of stroke victims the past couple years he can't keep up). Giggs went from a flying winger to a solid central midfielder. But Giggs only plays 20-25 games a year. He's only started 22 this year. Would Gerrard accept such a role not that far down the road? More over, United were more well stocked to deal with that. Do Liverpool have the pieces to only have Gerrard part of the time?
Raul Meireles's form has fallen off, though not terrible. Jay Spearing is a trier, but he's not nearly dynamic enough. This is the point where I'd love to advocate keeping Alberto Aquilani, because he can be that guy. But I don't want to get too far behind a guy who clearly would rather stay in Turin, and that's pretty much fair. Can Lucas adjust his game to be a more attacking player? We just got him to be useful in this role, shouldn't he be allowed to grow even more into it?
While Liverpool don't need the answer this summer, what they do need is to start to plan life after Stevie this summer. Arsenal had Fabregas behind Viera for a while before he took the bridge. It took a while, but United had Fletcher when Keane exited stage left, though Fletcher isn't nearly the player. Even Chelsea is planning for the next generation, with Kakuta, Sturridge, and McEachern all making inroads.
Is there something coming from the academy? I haven't heard so. So Pool are going to have to go out and find one. Charlie Adam is the name we all hear, but even if he is bought he will be 26 halfway through next season, is that a long term solution?
Sure, you don't always count on a 20-year old coming through and leading your team for a decade, and maybe that's far fetched. But Liverpool need to get younger.
I am not writing Captain Stevie's obit. He still has a lot to give to this club, and we know he will. If the club is properly stocked next season and Gerrard can be judiciously used, he can still dominate games when Liverpool will need it. Almost all of my fondest Red memories are centered around Gerrard, from the time in the spring of 2000 when he burst onto the scene with his first goal, that through ball to Titi Camara to defeat Arsenal, and a host of others. But it's time to accept that our window to acquire new memories is closing and rapidly, and we will have to open up a new one with someone else soon.