LONDON - Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says he has been dreading the moment he must wave goodbye to his adoring Anfield fans this weekend when he plays his final home game for the club.
After 17 years with his boyhood team, during which time Gerrard has made more than 700 appearances, Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace will mark the end of an era.
"I don't know what it will be like at the end of the game when I say goodbye for real," said the 34-year-old midfield general who will join the Los Angeles Galaxy when the season finishes.
"I've been dreading this moment in a strange way because I'm going to miss it so much, playing in front of the fans at Anfield and with my team mates," Gerrard told a packed news conference at Liverpool's Melwood training ground.
"It will be emotional but the plan is to keep it together and avoid the tears." Few players have worn their club shirt with more pride than Gerrard and he said he has enjoyed some "unbelievable highs" as well as some "cruel lows" over the years.
"Istanbul still makes the hairs on my neck stand up," he added of the night in 2005 when Gerrard inspired a Liverpool fightback from 3-0 down at halftime to beat AC Milan on penalties in the Champions League final.
"It was the best night of my life. Every footballer thinks it's the best cup to win. It will go down as the best Champions League final ever and as captain of that team there was no prouder man on the planet."
Gerrard said not winning the Premier League title put a dent in his memories and he paid tribute to former manager Gerard Houllier.
"I owe an awful lot to Gerard Houllier. He was a father figure and I won three trophies under him," he said. "He gave me the captaincy at 23 and it was a brave thing to do."
Gerrard, who has played 253 Premier League games at Anfield, said he hoped he could return one day in a coaching role. "To take a role at this club first and foremost you have to be good enough, you never take a role here on reputation," he said.
"But in a couple of years time when I've been out of the city and can reflect, if there's a role offered I feel I'm good enough for I would consider it."