Heroes, villains and judgement calls

DO not let compliments get to your head and do not take criticism to heart. This is one bit of advice I constantly remind myself and others around me.

In football, criticism and compliments are part and parcel of the game. It is however one thing to criticise players when one can't even kick a ball straight. 

Football is the world’s most watched sport and there many armchair pundits who think they are Gary Neville, Gary Lineker, John Motson or Andy Gray.

After Liverpool’s loss to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, many fans took to Twitter and Facebook to taunt Steven Gerrard who scuppered his chance for a perfect send off ahead of his summer move to Major League Soccer (MLS) club Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Cup final also falls on his birthday and would have been his very last appearance for the club.

Stevie G is a player I like though many have disputed his status as a great player.

Throughout the years, he has been known for his high work rate, pinpoint passes and match-winning pile drivers that have helped Liverpool clinch some important matches.

Gerrard has won the FA Cup twice, in 2001 and 2006, captained the UEFA Champions League 2005 winning side, won the League Cup in 2001, 2003 and 2012 and the UEFA Cup in 2001.

So many honours yet many fans have belittled his achievements, claiming he has not won the Barclays Premier League or a major international tournament.

Last season, Liverpool were close to winning the title but fell short in the later stages of the league competition.

And Gerrard, of course, was involved in what has been labelled as the defining moment in the 2013-2014 Premier League season – slipping while receiving a pass from Mamadou Sakho, allowing then Chelsea striker Demba Ba to score.

It was an awful gaffe, which ultimately resulted in Chelsea winning 2-0 and ending the Merseyside club’s chances of winning the title.

Before the match, Gerrard was heard encouraging his teammates to not let their chances “slip” after a victory over Manchester City.

This season, he has not been at his best and announced that he was leaving the club for Galaxy at the end of the season.

Some football fans have slammed Gerrard for being an ordinary player and not in the same class as players like Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.

He may not have won as many honours compared to the individuals above, but as a player, he is one of the best players not to have won the English Premiership title.

Gerrard has achieved many things and here are some noteworthy ones:

He was made Liverpool captain at the age of 23;

He kick-started the 5-1 demolition of Germany in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match;

He inspired an incredible comeback in the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham, and; In Istanbul in 2005, he inspired the comeback of all-time against the mighty AC Milan.

But, of course, there was also the slip and his red card against Manchester United last month, barely 40 seconds after coming in.

Notwithstanding, Gerrard to me is a top class professional and should rightly be remembered as one of the best players in world football.

Another moment that got football fans talking this week was Thierry Henry’s criticism of Real Madrid’s striker Javier Hernandez’s celebrations after scoring the winning goal against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final.

Henry said it was like Hernandez had won the World Cup and that it was “Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal” and Chicharito should have turned around and celebrated with him.

This a petty argument.

“Titi” is indeed a legend in world football but when it comes to punditry, he needs to talk about stats and performances instead of celebrations. Ronaldo is guilty of usually celebrating on his own and I can recall him celebrating like “he has won all the matches on his own” many times.

Besides, Henry should not forget that he celebrated France’s dubious winning goal against Ireland in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers playoff. I hope he remembers that he handled the ball twice before passing it to William Gallas who scored the winner.

I hope this is a one off and Henry will improve himself in the world of punditry.

He could learn a thing or two from Neville and Jamie Redknapp, who are good pundits and professionals.

In the end, when it comes to football, I believed we have to be wary about the kind of criticism we dish out.

Gerrard to me leaves Liverpool and the Premier League with good memories while Henry needs to be more incisive in his punditry. Both are great players that I revere and I hope for the best for both of them.


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