Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard is out for revenge. As the leader of England’s midfield (he may not be official captain, but you try and tell him that once he’s on the pitch), Gerrard will be aiming to spoil a big day for Lawrie Sanchez.
Gerrard heads into Saturday’s World Cup qualifier looking for revenge on the man who once made him cry as a boy: Northern Ireland boss Sanchez.
It was Sanchez that headed the winning goal for Wimbledon against the Reds at Wembley in the FA Cup Final of 1988. Liverpool were favourites that day to the point of everyone assuming they only had to turn up. Steven Gerrard, a lifelong Red was also expecting a win, and says he cried after that match.
He said: "I can remember when he ruined one of my days by scoring the winner in the FA Cup final against Liverpool. I remember crying after that game. He’s also done really well since taking charge of the Northern Ireland national team. Hopefully on the weekend, though, we’ll be able to turn it into a sad day for him."
Gerrard himself was unhappy during the last World Cup. Forced to miss the tournament through the need for surgery, Steven thinks he’ll be able to make up for it if England qualify this time: "I think that if we can get there, you’ll see a different Steven Gerrard at the World Cup. That will be the perfect stage for me to show people worldwide that I can dominate at this level. I just feel I can still offer a bit more at international level and Germany would be the perfect place to prove it."
He talks about why he missed the last tournament: "I had no choice really other than to decide to have surgery. I knew that if I had decided to go to the World Cup you wouldn’t have seen the best of me. I know what it’s like to miss out on one so hopefully now I can play a big part in this one."
The English FA have decided to pander to the requests of England’s boss Ericcson, and have arranged for the 2006 season to finish early. This arrangement requires different rules for different teams in relation to whether or not drawn FA Cup matches have replays or not, but Gerrard – on England duty of course – welcomes it: "With the amount of games that we play during a season, it’s important that, come these tournaments, you are fresh and ready. Sven will know how to handle that right and I’m sure that by the time we start the training we’ll be really fresh because of the week he’ll have given us beforehand."
Back to this weekend’s game though, and Gerrard believes that they musn’t go into the game too complacently: "We have to show the people who are watching and the opposition why we are favourites. We are favourites because we believe we are a better team with better individuals and we need to have proved that by a quarter-to-five on Saturday."
After his boyhood tears, he’ll not be drawn into assuming the game will be easy, despite the individuals that England have available.
Up-front he says that they are now strong with the Rooney-Owen partnership, one which mixes pace with brutality: "With Wayne and Michael there is a good mix. It’s the variation in their game that makes them so good to play with."
He also has time for a word of praise for his current team-mate and friend, Jamie Carragher: "We also have some of the best centre-backs and full-backs in the world. It’s great to have Rio Ferdinand back while John Terry and Jamie Carragher have shown tremendous form. We are littered with top defenders. Hopefully, if we go on to qualify, come the World Cup, teams will find it very difficult to score against us."
Now of course look out for the edited version of the above quote, which removes Jamie Carragher’s name and emphasises John Terry’s – the country’s national press have already decided Gerrard will be at Chelsea come summer. Should Gerrard perform as well as he’d like, Liverpool may well lose him – but to a bigger club than Chelsea.