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15th Nov 2018

Make Us Dream reminds us of the greatness of Steven Gerrard

Reuben Pinder

Steven Gerrard was the complete midfielder; a player whose only weakness was also his biggest strength – an unrelenting desire to win

Football fans have very short memories. Too often when we think of Steven Gerrard we remember the Gerrard of later years: a broken player whose body had all but given up on him. And of course we remember the slip.

Make Us Dream, a documentary directed by Sam Blair, reminds us of Gerrard’s greatness without shying away from the gut-wrenching lows that he suffered as a player.

He realised every young football fan’s dream: to represent and captain his boyhood club, reaching legendary status. But his journey was not without heartache. Make Us Dream offers viewers a window into the mind of a man who was living the dream, which sometimes became a nightmare.

Starting at the very beginning, the film recalls a junior game that Gerrard played in. “They won 27-0 and Stevie scored 12 of the goals,” Julie Ann Gerrard, Steven’s mum, remembers with a chuckle.

The Gerrard family were well aware that he had it from an early age, but took a step back when Liverpool approached them, requesting to nurture eight-year-old Steven. They didn’t want to put more pressure on him to achieve his dream, something which would prove to be for the best considering the mental journey that he endured throughout his playing career.

A strong focus is placed on the unfathomably intense pressure that Gerrard carried on his shoulders to bring success back to Liverpool and how it affected him. So extreme was his innate need to win, for him, his people, his city, that he began to suffer.

It was the growing sense that Liverpool may never win the trophies that a player of his talent so clearly deserved to hold that made him consider leaving the club he had grown up supporting.

“I wasn’t sleeping at night, I was no good to no-one. It was breaking me. I needed help,” Gerrard admits in a brutally honest account of the traumatic period that was the 2004/05 season. An own goal from Gerrard himself in the League Cup final – against Chelsea of all teams – further fuelled rumours that he would trade red for blue at the end of the season.

But then, Istanbul happened.

Blair’s direction of that night captures the rollercoaster of emotions that every Liverpool fan went through. As Hernan Crespo delicately chips AC Milan’s third over Jerzy Dudek, the camera pans from the players, heads dropped, to the fans, paralysed by shock at what they had just witnessed.

“I knew that I had to start taking more risks”, Gerrard explains, an admittance that ending Liverpool’s run to the final without the trophy in his hands simply wasn’t an option.

From this match, one image sticks out. Not Gerrard lifting the trophy, nor Milan Baros swinging Xabi Alonso to the ground in celebration at the equaliser, but Gerrard running back to the centre circle at 3-1, readjusting his armband, arms swinging like a man possessed. His belief, or more his refusal to quit, was infectious, and there is no better example than Istanbul. This was peak Gerrard, reaching the pinnacle of football, and it was no less than he deserved.

The film replays a key post-match interview. “How can I leave after this?” Gerrard said. It was clear in his mind now: “Chelsea is in your head, but Liverpool is in your heart”, as he succinctly explains in an emotional narration of the affair.

But what followed was not a period of success, but more heartache, which encapsulated the ‘almost’ nature of Gerrard’s club career.

Then comes the brief rise and dramatic fall of Hicks and Gillett, a series of injuries and Gerrard himself having to confront the fact that he might be “done”, a thought that haunted a player who had one final task on his to-do list: to lift the Premier League.

Pain relief allowed Gerrard to battle through the injuries and bring Liverpool to within inches of finally winning a title, as a new look Liverpool blew teams away with ease throughout the 2013/14 season.

The win over Manchester City, 25 years after the Hillsborough disaster, where Gerrard’s cousin, Jon-Paul tragically died, filled Gerrard with such emotion that tears of joy began to flow.

“It just had to come out,” he explains.

A shot of 8-year-old Steven, crying in a junior match, beautifully mirrors the scenes at Anfield in April 2014.

“This does not f*cking slip now,” he said. But of course, it did.

Gerrard himself admits that he should not have played in that game. He was too stiff, but being the captain that he was, sitting it out simply was not an option.

The tragic cruelty of that moment only adds to the legend of Steven Gerrard, who embodied an era of great, but ultimately barren moments for Liverpool Football Club.

Now, having retired and gone into coaching, Gerrard admits that from the outside in, people might think he is ill-advised to go through the same emotional journey from the touchline, but in his own words: “I don’t feel that my journey is complete.”

Make Us Dream is in cinemas now and will be soon be available on Amazon Prime video.