Liverpool bids farewell to Gerrard, a humble hometown icon

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Ask Liverpool fans what they'll miss most about Steven Gerrard when he leaves for the United States and they'll reel off a list of qualities that made their long-time captain one of the most revered players in English soccer.

The spectacular goals. Those surging runs into the box. His indomitable spirit. His devotion to the club.

Gerrard is regarded as a humble hometown icon in these parts, and that will ensure there will be an outpouring of emotion on Saturday when he plays at Anfield for the final time in a Liverpool shirt. Such is the demand for tickets for Gerrard's home farewell that some are being sold for more than 2,500 pounds ($3,950) on the internet.

"I've been dreading this moment," Gerrard said Thursday, looking ahead to the game against Crystal Palace. "I'm going to miss it so much. The aim is to stay strong and avoid a few tears."

Since making his debut in 1998 as a fresh-faced 18-year-old midfielder wearing a jersey far too big for him, Gerrard has played 708 games for Liverpool and scored 185 goals. He captained Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005 — "the best night of my life, the pinnacle professionally" — and was voted the club's best player in a poll on its website in 2013.

Liverpool has been his life since he was 8, when he used to take two buses from his home to train at the club's academy, and he'll move to the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season with a heavy heart.

"I am not really one for attention," said Gerrard, one of Britain's most well-known sportsmen. "I feel a bit sorry for my teammates. I can only apologize if it has all been about me this week."

His final game will be against Stoke on May 24.

Gerrard, who has been captain since 2003, leaves Liverpool after winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup, two FA Cups and three League Cups. He never, though, managed to lead Liverpool to a first English league title since 1990 and it remains his biggest regret.

Last season, the Reds fell two points short of Manchester City, with Gerrard's now-famous slip against Chelsea contributing to a 2-0 loss that ended up costing Liverpool the title.

"I'm really proud of what I have achieved here, all the trophies I have won," Gerrard said, "but certainly not winning the Premier League is a dent in that. There is nothing I can do about it now.

"I've had some cruel lows and incredible highs, but the support has never changed, at Anfield and around the world."

Gerrard said his Anfield highlight was the hat trick he scored against Everton in 2012.

"After all the stick, I have had from the Bluenoses, that was nice," Gerrard said.

But the goal that he thinks will define him is the late strike against Olympiakos that helped Liverpool seal a 3-1 win to qualify from the group stage in 2004. The team went on that season to win its fifth European Cup.

Gerrard believes it's too early to say whether he will one day become Liverpool manager. He is currently taking his UEFA coaching badges.

"To take a role at this club, you have to be good enough," Gerrard said. "You can't take one on ambition or name. You would be naive to take one just because you are Steven Gerrard.

"If in a couple of years' time there is a role on offer where I think I can contribute and good enough, I will certainly consider it."

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