Friday 19 December 2014

Frustrated Gerrard steps away from England captaincy

Chris Bascombe

Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30

Steven Gerrard says he "agonised" over the decision to walk away from the England captaincy and was overcome with emotion when discussing his future with manager Roy Hodgson.

After 114 appearances for his country, 38 as captain, Gerrard issued a retirement statement tinged with regret, not least for the timing of his departure following a World Cup disappointment he is still coming to terms with.

Gerrard said Liverpool's additional workload of Champions League football meant that, at 34, it was the right time to leave the international stage, even though his England ambitions have gone unfulfilled.

ACCOLADES

For all his personal accolades and the regard in which he is held, Gerrard has never hidden his dissatisfaction that he was unable to inspire his country to success at major tournaments.

"I'm still very upset with how the World Cup went and I needed time to come away, gather my thoughts, clear my head and make sure it was the right decision," said Gerrard.

"The most important thing for me was to not make an emotional or rash decision. I had some time to be alone, time to be with my close family and friends and discuss and talk about what was going to be the best decision.

"The first time I spoke to Roy properly was this week, I tried to have an initial chat with him straight after the World Cup, but I was too emotional to talk to him.

"Looking back on the World Cup I am very frustrated and upset and still in a grieving process, if you like, because it is the biggest stage of them all and for it to end how it did for England, for one is not good enough and for me, (with) the standards I set and what I expected from the World Cup, I'm still very down.

"But I haven't made my decision on the back of the World Cup. I've come to a decision after a lot of agonising.

"I've made my decision on my age, on my body, on being fair to Liverpool Football Club, being respectful to them especially with the Champions League back – that was a huge factor.

"To ask my body now, the way it is and what it has been through, to play international football and domestic football was too much. It is strange in a way because I still feel as though I could play for England in September, October, November, I'm still in great physical condition.

"But, big picture-wise, over the next two, three, four years, the best thing for my body, where I stand now, is to step aside out of the international fold and give my body the best chance to perform well, certainly over the next year while I'm contracted to Liverpool."

Gerrard is the last of England's 'golden generation' who promised so much a decade ago – one of several genuinely world-class players who have consistently demonstrated their quality in the Champions League and Premier League but could not inspire their country to the same heights.

From the moment Kevin Keegan gave him his debut aged 20 Gerrard was perceived to be a future captain.

He impressed in 2000 at the European Championships, but it was under Sven Goran Eriksson that he enjoyed the international highlight of a famous 5-1 win against Germany, scoring from 20 yards. A more introverted character than his peers, Gerrard was often misunderstood or misused in various roles.

Fabio Capello wrongly mistook quiet authority for shyness, while the episode in 2012 when caretaker Stuart Pearce overlooked Gerrard's captaincy claims for Scott Parker can only be recalled with incredulity.

Under Hodgson he became permanent England captain, relishing the responsibility.

"It's a dream every time you put the armband on – a special feeling. I'm very proud to say I captained my country, and I'm here for any England managers who want advice on the next England captain."

Gerrard leaves the role in a period of transition for England and that made his decision tougher. "I'm very frustrated, but I'm also optimistic," he said. "I've got mixed feelings looking back at the World Cup. I know things will turn around for the better, I know things will improve and go forward." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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