Gerrard's retirement the correct call
It was more likely a case of jumping before he was pushed and many Liverpool fans might have wanted Steven Gerrard to retire from international duty a lot earlier, but the (now former) England captain has probably made the correct decision.
By the end of November there would have been a maximum of 13 league games, six international contests and six Champions League matches for him to negotiate. For a footballer whose reluctance to sit out any game is legendary but is now 34 years of age, that was asking an awful lot, and he has begrudgingly but wisely bowed to Old Father Time.
It perhaps didn't occur to him until recently that the extra football for England might be getting in the way of his Liverpool ambitions, as up until last season there was little being achieved at Anfield this decade. He probably should have called it a day two years ago, but the lure of just one more World Cup was too great.
It's always a big decision when the country's captain decides to walk away. Not everyone takes kindly to a club's interests being given priority. At least now, after a dismal effort in Brazil, there will be more support for his decision as many England fans were already calling for a new broom -- whomever that might be -- to magically emerge and for the old to be swept aside.
The Liverpool support is a broad church, and although not everyone is anti-England, Gerrard is just one of numerous heroes in red who never quite hit the same dizzying club heights when performing for his country.
Gerrard still has plenty to be proud of. The extraordinary number of caps (114) added to an important role in England's greatest result this century -- the 5-1 mauling of Germany in 2001 -- when he and fellow Reds Michael Owen and Emile Heskey scored all the goals in a sensational result. Straight off the back of a treble cup triumph for his club that year, Gerrard's future looked golden at every level.
It's not just an England thing. When former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen was interviewed recently following his retirement from the BBC's "Match of the Day," his disappointment that his international career never remotely compared to his club achievements was palpable. Owen is the only modern Liverpool player who has ever really played as well for England. I wonder if it is a coincidence that he is somewhat unwelcome at Anfield these days.
Gerrard was part of the so-called Golden Generation that never truly hit the heights expected of it, though reaching three quarterfinals -- 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, 2006 World Cup -- isn't really that shabby. "England Expects" rather too much sometimes. Personally, I've always found it hard to come to terms with the tribal nature of English club football, where Gerrard is regularly mocked and was more recently taunted mercilessly about his slip against Chelsea -- only to then have the same people turn 180 degrees, shouting "Come on, Stevie G" once he changes into an England strip.
Liverpool is considered by some to be a part of the world that has more than most regarded itself as a separate body. There has been a struggle to come to terms with Gerrard, the Scouser who desperately wanted to succeed for England. A very rare few players translate their club brilliance onto the international stage, yet somehow there has always seemed more resentment for the likes of John Barnes and Gerrard when they weren't able to do so, almost as if it were expected because of whom they played for. If Lionel Messi can't do it, then there's no shame for Gerrard either.
Key European club fixtures
French Ligue 1 -- Aug. 8
FA Community Shield: Manchester City vs. Arsenal -- Aug. 10
German Super Cup: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich -- Aug. 13
English Premier League -- Aug. 16
Spanish Super Cup: Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid -- Aug. 19 and 22
Spanish La Liga/German Bundesliga -- Aug. 23
Italian Serie A -- Aug. 30
Gerrard's willingness to do what was asked of him has often counted against him in terms of his position within the team. When he was regularly reaching double figures in goals a season for Liverpool he was rarely played in an advanced role for his country. Liverpool supporters never let it bother them, but it seemed to trouble Gerrard at times.
Maybe he was too honest for his own good, but regardless there is something old-fashioned and noble about it. I never really knew why he bothered so much and so often for what can sometimes be an ungrateful and hysterical nation.
The great players want to be the best at everything they do, and if Gerrard never could manage to do that in an England shirt, at least he did the absolute best that he could. For Steven Gerrard, that is all that has ever mattered.