Liverpool captains: leaders on and off the pitch

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Liverpool captains: leaders on and off the pitch

In the red half of Merseyside where likes to play, the armband is more than just an accessory, it’s a symbol of heritage, responsibility and an invitation to join the echelons of Liverpool legends. The club with its rich history prides itself not only on its successes on the pitch, but also on the charismatic leadership that has come its way. Players who have worn the armband are remembered not only for the way they led the team to victory, but also for the way they represented the values of the club to the wider community.

Each legendary captain has left an indelible mark on the club. This article explores the huge impact Liverpool’s captains have had both on and off the pitch.

The epitome of leadership: Steven Gerrard

No conversation about Liverpool captains can avoid Steven Gerrard, often referred to as ‘Mr Liverpool’. Gerrard has been known for his inspirational performances on the pitch, best expressed in his impressive role in a marvellous comeback in the Champions League against AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.

Off the field, however, Gerrard’s impact has been just as powerful. Through his foundation, he has enriched the lives of countless children in difficult circumstances. Thus, his legacy at Liverpool is twofold: a glittering career adorned with trophies and a tireless commitment to good causes.

Transition support: Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson, who replaced Gerrard in 2015, has quietly but effectively become one of the Premier League’s top players and an exemplary captain. His leadership was put to the test during COVID-19 when he was instrumental in the #PlayersTogether initiative, showing solidarity and empathy far beyond football by helping to raise funds for charity. On the pitch, Henderson has led Liverpool to numerous victories including the Champions League and Premier League, cementing his legacy as a captain who leads by example.

Early pioneers: Ron Yates and Emlyn Hughes

Going back to an earlier era, Ron Yates epitomised the archetype of the captain with an iron will and calming presence. Bill Shankly, Liverpool’s legendary coach, once said, “With Yates in defence we could play with Arthur Askey in goal.” Yates’ behaviour off the pitch was equally impressive; he was a figure who set the standard of behaviour and professionalism during Liverpool’s formative years in the top division.

Emlyn Hughes, nicknamed ‘Crazy Horse’ for his dynamic style of play, carried the captain’s torch throughout the 1970s, leading the Reds to numerous league titles and the first two European Cups. His colourful personality was a valuable asset that helped build strong relationships within the team and with the fans, strengthening the club’s community spirit.

Quiet influence: Alan Hansen

Alan Hansen was the thinking man’s captain in the 1980s, leading largely by example with his understated and intelligent play. He not only maintained an impeccable level of play but also provided a sense of stability in times of tragedy such as the Hazel and Hillsborough disasters. Hansen’s leadership was characterised by his thoughtful approach, promoting resilience and unity within the club and the wider community affected by these events.

Soulful Leader: Graeme Souness

Graeme Souness’ tenure as Liverpool captain in the early 1980s epitomises the dual personality of a great leader: tough and uncompromising on the pitch, but a figure of notable influence and character off it. Souness took over as captain at a time when Liverpool were already a dominant force both domestically and in Europe.

On the pitch, Souness was a warrior, the epitome of energy and aggression that led Liverpool to numerous successes including three 8 Euro Cup titles. He possessed football intelligence and fierce willpower, often dominating games from midfield, utilising both physical presence and exquisite skill.

James Milner: the last of the old-schools

Whilst not a regular captain, James Milner deserves a mention for his exemplary leadership when called upon. Milner’s professionalism, incredible fitness levels and versatility on the pitch are matched by his desire to utilise his platform for the public good.


Liverpool’s captains were much more than just players on the football pitch. They were leaders, embodiments of the city’s spirit and instigators of social change. Their legacy resonates not in the trophies they lifted, but in the lives they touched and the global football community they helped develop. It is this dual impact that has made the men who wear the iconic Liverpool red armband true leaders, champions on and off the pitch.

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