Rick Parry, is a lifelong Liverpool supporter as well as being Liverpool’s Chief Executive. When he spoke to Sky Television tonight he had the look of a man that had been betrayed. In many ways he had – because Steven Gerrard had gone back on his word.
For 12 months now Liverpool have shown patience with the boy from Huyton that became a world-famous midfielder. Liverpool offered him the deal he’d asked for. Gerrard turned it down – nothing would keep him at Anfield. "It’s disappointing," said Parry. He meant it. He continued: "Personally it’s disappointing because we made it perfectly clear that we did want Steven to stay, there’s no question about that. Its the ups and downs of football I guess but there it is, we have to move on. He’s made it clear that he wants to go. We’ve done our best and I think it looks pretty final."
Parry takes his job seriously, he takes things personally. He tried to help Gerrard last summer when the player was obviously being swayed by the attentions of Chelsea’s England players at Euro 2004. When Gerrard returned home, he’d already been in touch with Chelsea and had allegedly agreed a deal – without permission from Liverpool. Parry didn’t kick up a fuss though, he just talked to Gerrard and tried to help him through the concerns. Parry recalls: "I remember sitting with him last summer and understanding his frustrations, and they were deep, because obviously it came close."
Parry asked Gerrard to give the new boss Rafael Benitez time to sort the club out. Gerrard Houllier had been given massive amounts of both money and patience and had failed to achieve much more than saddling Liverpool with huge wage bills for players rarely used. Parry wanted Gerrard to see that Benitez could bring success. Parry continues: "It was all to do with perceived lack of success and we told him to stick with it and lets see what we achieve, and we thought we achieved quite a lot." Gerrard can’t win anything more prestigious at club level than the European Cup, the Champions League. The Premiership is important of course, but not as prestigious as the European Cup. Ironically, by leaving Liverpool Gerrard will miss out on the chance of leading the Reds to success in the European Super Cup and the World Club Championship. None of the clubs he’s been linked with are entered for those competitions.
Parry tried to see the good in Gerrard, although it’s hard to see why. He said: "I don’t think, to be fair to Stevie, that it’s an issue of money, money wasn’t a problem. It was about long term commitment and feeling that this was the place he wanted to be and the place he could win trophies and in the final analysis he feels he’ll do better elsewhere."
Next up was a quote from Parry that may one day come back to haunt Gerrard: "He wanted success and presumably felt he’d get more success elsewhere so now its our job to prove him wrong."
Parry went on: "People might be thinking Champions League success is a pretty good marker. I think this is a special club with special fans. I did say to him, think of Istanbul, think of the fans who have been the 12th man throughout the Champions League campaign." The problem was that Gerrard believed all of the hype he generated, and thought he was doing the job of the other 11 players all by himself.
Parry, disappointed as he is at the betrayal, is now ready to see Liverpool move on: "The fans will still be here, the fans will still be with us. The club always has to be bigger than the individual so it’s now just onwards and upwards."
After a year of speculation over Gerrard’s future it has come as a relief to most Liverpool fans. He’s made his mind up. He’s going. Now though the stories from Liverpool’s perspective will move to how the money will be spent. Parry says there won’t be any panic to spend the money: "Rafa is very calm and very measured in his thinking, so there’s time."
He’s also willing to wait for a sufficient bid to be made for the player, and for Gerrard to make a formal transfer request. He said: "We’re calm, we haven’t put deadlines on, it wasn’t our decision at the end of the day." He had confirmed earlier that a bid from Chelsea had been rejected. He said there hadn’t been any others made since, but he was sure there would be: "I don’t imagine it would be just one club, but it’s early days yet."
Earlier in the day Steven Gerrard gave his side of the story to Sky – or rather he didn’t. In a statement to the Sky Sports News channel he said, "The last six weeks have been the toughest of my life. The decision I have come to has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I fully intended to sign a new contract after the Champions League final but the events of the past five or six weeks have changed all that. I have too much respect for the club and the people at it to get involved in a slanging match." What events? Unfortunately for Steven he has been badly advised over what to put into this statement. Blaming "events" for his decision, without saying what the "events" are, gives an impression that his motives for moving were not something to be proud of.