Carra relaxes in a difficult week for Gerrard

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has now switched his focus from Liverpool’s Premiership challenge and Champions League recovery to trying to bale England out of trouble in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. England are going to play Austria in a friendly on Friday in preparation for their qualifier against Croatia next week – but that will be a nothing game unless Israel can beat Russia on Saturday.
This makes preparation for the players difficult according to Gerrard, who’ll be captain in the absence of John Terry. Speaking to The Mirror, Gerrard said: “It’s going to be a difficult week because we’re all waiting for the Israel game. It’s been difficult being an England player since the Russia result. We could all be going into one of the most meaningless internationals of our career, or one of the most important.”
He says the players have to hope for the best, not fear the worst, otherwise they’ll not be ready if the result does go their way: “If we join up this week thinking it’s all over and we’ve got no chance, it will make it impossible to prepare right for Wednesday if it suddenly becomes a massive game for us.”
As a Liverpool player Gerrard gets quite a lot of stick for his devotion to his country. Michael Owen used to be given a great deal of stick too when he was a Liverpool player, because of a perception he was putting England before Liverpool. With Gerrard that’s clearly not the case. He wants to play in every single game he’s eligible to play, and always tries to give his all when he is selected. Manager Rafa Benitez sees the internationals as an unwanted intrusion into the domestic season, stopping momentum and often seeing injured players used when they should be rested, or coming back injured. Gerrard doesn’t see it that way: “It’s not aggravation to go out and play for your country.”
He’s tasted success with Liverpool, most memorably in Istanbul in the Champions League final in 2005, and wants more of that with his country: “I still believe and have a dream of winning something with England, and that’s worth any aggravation. If you look around the squad and see the players we’ve got, they should be capable of winning something.”
Despite his comments that they have to hope for the best, he’s already started to cushion himself for the blow of not qualifying: “If we have to suffer this summer to have a successful World Cup in 2010, then that really would be worth the aggravation, if you want to call it that. Can you imagine this country if we have a successful tournament? And that’s what I want to be part of.”
Gerrard has been football-mad all his life, and winning things for Liverpool and England were all part of his dreams as a child: “I have the same dream I had when I was a kid. Any young English player who doesn’t have that dream shouldn’t be playing for England. I can assure everyone on the outside that the players are frustrated and disappointed at the position we’re in and are desperate to put it right.”
One player who lost that urge to help his country was Jamie Carragher. He had grown tired of being overlooked for selection, or at best being used out of position, and decided earlier in the year that it was time to put his England career to bed. He wanted to be able to put his all into helping Liverpool, and he said this week that he doesn’t regret the decision one bit. He told LFC’s official website: “No, I’ve got no regrets. I’m enjoying it very much. Obviously there’s just four or five of us training and that’s pretty enjoyable. I also get a lot more time at home with the kids and Nicola, so that’s great.”
Liverpool’s next game is ten days away, and Carra’s hoping he’s in good shape for that: “Hopefully I’ll be fresher than most of the lads by the time Newcastle comes around. The whole idea was to help my Liverpool form. Hopefully it’s doing that.”