Gerrard: I want to quit and be a coach
For someone entering what he expects to be his final year as a player Steven Gerrard does not strike you as being in retirement mode.
The former Liverpool and England captain returns to Los Angeles this month, but thoughts are already turning to what lies beyond his final game.
It is 12 months to the day since Gerrard named the date of his Anfield departure, and the start of 2016 brings another announcement of sorts.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure but it will probably be my last year as a player,” said the former England captain, sipping a coffee at the Vincent restaurant he co-owns in Liverpool city centre.
The question preoccupying Gerrard is what then? There is no obvious path beyond a sketchy promise that Liverpool will find ‘something’ for him.
Gerrard sees most of England’s golden generation of elite footballers in a similar predicament, armed with knowledge, enthusiasm and ideas but increasingly disheartened.
“They should be getting offers they cannot refuse,” says Gerrard. “If a player has got 100 caps and 700 club games how can a club and the FA just let them go? They have so much to offer.
“A lot of clubs don’t let it happen - they don’t let players like that go. You see it at Manchester United with Ryan Giggs, Barcelona with Pep Guardiola, they say ‘when you finish here, this will happen’.
“I have regrets I didn’t start my coaching badges at 21-22. All that time wasted in hotels as an England player when I’ve been bored and was watching The Office and The Sopranos. I wish I’d done my C, B, A [coaching] licences then so I’d be doing my pro-licence now. I know many players get to the end of their careers, get handed a thick C licence pack and say, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that’. That’s 70/80 caps and 600 career appearances and he is just going ‘nah’. He could have had it done.
“I had a meeting with the FA and said these players that are earning a certain amount of caps - don’t let them go away from the game, do more to keep them involved. Put these coaching badges on offer at a younger age. When you are training, you finish at 1pm so have the coaching badges available in the afternoons, so that when they finish their careers they are ready to become coaches straight away and they don’t need to start at the bottom and do all the tedious coaching courses that are out there.
“The likes of Jamie Carragher and the ex-players like Robbie [Fowler] have too much to offer to just be let go. I admire that Gary Neville has made the jump so soon, especially into a big club like Valencia. Gary was one I thought would go into a role around a first team set-up when he finished playing. You have to tip your hat to him - he is being brave.”
Gerrard wrote in his recent book that he wished Liverpool had done more to keep him as part of the backroom team as much as playing staff a year ago. “I could have certainly become a squad player or signed a year extension. To sign it there would have had to be a ‘short, middle and long-term’ plan for me at Liverpool rather than just fade into being a squad player.”
The last few weeks training with Jurgen Klopp at Melwood have brought further contemplation. “I have had a chat with Klopp. I haven’t had an offer, but the club have let me know they are keen for me to come back but there hasn’t been a conversation where they have said, ‘We want you to do this, we want you to do that.”
“I am always going to be biased towards Liverpool and the FA and, when I am back home, I am going to move around clubs and gain more experience, going to watch managers and learning more.
“I am basically available from November, December 2016. Everyone in the football world will know I am available and hopefully I will be 75 per cent into my coaching badges.
“I’ve dreams and aspirations of going into coaching and management but at the moment I’m nowhere near ready for management.
“When you start your coaching badges you realise pretty sharp it’s different. You’re in control of 25 men with different egos.”
The chance to see Klopp at close hand convinced Gerrard that Liverpool’s future is bright. “I’m excited, upbeat and positive,” he said. “I was a big fan of Klopp but having been around him and seeing how he is with players and tactics, you get excited.
“I was a bit wary about whether to do it because I didn’t want to take any attention away from players or the newness of Klopp. But I’m delighted I did. I felt I was new and young. I wanted to impress - the coaches but also my mates who had been my team-mates for years. I wanted to show them I could still do a bit.”
Gerrard will be playing for Liverpool again this month, but as part of a club legends tour to Australia ahead of his pre-season at LA Galaxy. Outsiders still find it bemusing that he is not part of the latest Anfield transition, especially given his answer to one of the most poignant questions of the morning.
Do you think you could still play in the Premier League? After a pause, he says, “Yeah.”
They may need to drag him off the pitch if his last game is in 2016.