McClaren: 50-cap Stevie can get better

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will win his 50th cap for England tonight in their World Cup qualifier against Macedonia, and England boss Steve McClaren says there’ll be a lot more added to that figure before he ends his career.

Technically called the England “Head Coach”, McClaren presented his vice-captain with a framed collage of some of the midfielder’s appearances for England and was full of praise as he handed it over. Speaking to the assembled media, McClaren said: “It’s a tremendous achievement – fifty caps at his age. He has great experience and is using that experience not just with England but with Liverpool.”

Well done Stevie, but there’s no time to relax of course. Everyone wants more from you; everyone wants more of that magic: “Steven Gerrard can get better. He can improve. He is one of those inspirational players whose inspires everyone else. He’s one of those players who at any moment can win a game for you. People like that are invaluable in your team.”

Gerrard had suffered under previous England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, because the Swedish coach couldn’t find how to play Frank Lampard and Gerrard together in the same team. Eriksson was also unable to drop David Beckham, after making him captain when he first became manager. Now that Beckham’s gone, Gerrard can play on the right-hand side of midfield, meaning Lampard can play the only role he knows how to play.

McClaren says he’s pleased with how Lampard and Gerrard are playing: “In the two games so far, Stevie and Frank have worked very well together. I stressed that point before the first game. The one criticism levelled at the players is that when they join up with England, they don’t play for England as they do for clubs.”

Gerrard has been used on the right by Liverpool to great effect. It’s not exactly rocket science to assume he might do alright there for England too. McClaren seemed to be hinting that Eriksson could have worked this out too if he’d put a bit of thought to it: “That’s an international manager’s dilemma, when all these players come together, to gel them into a team, put them positions where they naturally play for their clubs and get performances for international teams as they do for clubs. That’s what we are trying to get here. We have not had to do much work.”

Of course McClaren could just be celebrating too soon, but at least he knows that the players aren’t forced to make major changes to their games so that they can play for their country: “It’s natural. That’s the key. You don’t have these players for very long, preparation-wise. You put them in the team, in the places where it’s natural for them. It’s natural where Stevie and Frank are playing and that’s why they are effective.”