With no capable replacement, Reds fans will feel Steven Gerrard is leaving too soon

Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Gerrard takes a corner during the UEFA Champions League football match between Liverpool and Basel at Anfield in Liverpool on Dec 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Gerrard takes a corner during the UEFA Champions League football match between Liverpool and Basel at Anfield in Liverpool on Dec 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Liverpool fans have already been bracing themselves for this inevitable moment, when their iconic captain announces his retirement or departure from the club. After all, no one can play top-tier football forever, much less an all-action, no-hold-barred player like Steven Gerrard.

Yet, when the announcement of his imminent departure came on Thursday, most Reds fans will be feeling like Sean Bean's character Ned Stark in the hit television drama Game of Thrones when he said: "Winter is coming."

Indeed, any departure date for Gerrard will be viewed as too soon for the fans, because there is absolutely no one in the current squad, or even the entire English Premier League, that can replace the face of the Merseyside club for the last decade.

Which is why they are preparing themselves for an even leaner period than the past decade, with Gerrard unwilling to continue on as a bit-part player.

On the pitch, his versatility will be sorely missed. Here's a player who plays every midfield position with distinction. He can even play at right-back; that was where he played when he made his first-team debut way back in 1998. Ask him to play as a deep-lying striker, and he will score and create goals with aplomb.

More crucially, his all-action dynamism will be even harder to replace. Here's a hands-on skipper who is eager to be involved every minute of a game; rarely is he an anonymous figure on the pitch.

There are some fans who say that this is the right time for Gerrard to leave; some even believe that he has already out-stayed his welcome. No doubt, his all-action days are gone, and he is trying to influence the game in much subtler ways like dictating the tempo and keeping the shape of the team formation.

Perhaps that is the reason why the 34-year-old wants to leave: he cannot influence a game as decisively as before, with age catching up. And if he cannot, he is not one to stay around and take up squad space. (He belongs to the same make-up as his long-time deputy captain, Jamie Carragher.)

Nevertheless, Reds fans like me will acknowledge that, no matter if he has not won the domestic league for Liverpool, Gerrard will go down in club history as one of the greatest players to have worn the captain's armband for the club.

He leaves with countless highlights, all of which have already created scores of YouTube compilations to be viewed again and again with relish.

More importantly, he was the leader of the club who connected with fans repeatedly. My best memory of Gerrard will be of him scoring Liverpool's first goal at the 2005 Champions League final, which narrowed the Reds deficit to 1-3 against AC Milan, and going back to the centre-circle with his arms flailing wildly at his fans.

"Come on, it's not over yet. We can win this," he seemed to be exhorting. Much like his memorable "we go again" quote during last season's near-title run, this is a player who never stops giving his all for Liverpool.

An epitome of dedication, Gerrard will be missed.

Should Gerrard stay at Liverpool beyond this season?