Reds accept Capello's call despite Gerrard KO
Liverpool took a step back yesterday from the angry stance they adopted on Wednesday night about Steven Gerrard's damaged hamstring, even though the player is expected to be out for up to four weeks.
Immediately after England's match with France at Wembley, Darren Burgess, Liverpool's head of fitness and conditioning, accused the England management of being "amateurish" and "incompetent" in a posting on his Twitter account. He said they had reneged on an agreement for Gerrard to play only an hour of the match.
However, yesterday the club were much more conciliatory, accepting that Fabio Capello had every right to play Gerrard, considering the injuries he had to deal with to other senior players and with Jack Wilshere also unavailable.
Capello checked with Gerrard at half-time that he was fit to carry on playing beyond the 45 to 60 minutes that had been agreed with Liverpool.
Franco Baldini, the England general manager, had spoken to Damien Comolli, Liverpool's director of football strategy, before the match to ascertain what the club wanted and then after it to explain why Gerrard had played for more than had been agreed.
Before kick-off Comolli had registered his concern that the 30-year-old was tired and would benefit from not playing a full match. However, with the injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry, Capello asked Gerrard, who took the captain's armband from Ferdinand, if he was okay to carry on. Gerrard agreed and, unfortunately, was injured in a tackle.
Capello expressed his regret at the injury, while Baldini and Comolli again spoke. Comolli expressed his disappointment, but stated that he understood why Gerrard had continued. This ran contrary to the anger of Burgess, whose Twitter comments were deleted within minutes of them appearing.
Burgess's superior, Dr Peter Brukner, Liverpool's head of sports medicine and sports science, said he accepted the club could not dictate to Capello.
"If you put your hand up to play for your country, you've got to accept how long they want you to play for," he said. "There were obviously circumstances which came together to result in Steven playing for a bit longer than we'd hoped, which is disappointing, but there's nothing we can do about that now. We'll move on and work as hard as we can to get him back playing for Liverpool as soon as possible."
Liverpool are not going to punish Burgess and the club will not apologise, but he has contacted his opposite number at the FA to say he did not choose his words very well.
Liverpool's stance amounts to accepting an uneasy peace after their anger on Wednesday night. The shift in mood also vindicates Capello, who has, as usual, acted by the book in dealing with his squad.
The same applies to Andy Carroll whose club, Newcastle, expressed concerns over his involvement. The England management sought the opinion of four specialists on Carroll's groin problem and also spoke to the 21-year-old in the warm-up, insisting he did not have to play if it jeopardised his involvement in the game against Bolton tomorrow.
Newcastle manager Chris Hughton said he accepted that the "lines of communication" between the club and the English FA "were very good right the way through".
Capello will continue to be blamed in some quarters, but given the lack of options available, he had little choice, but to continue with Gerrard, it seems, especially after the player confirmed he was ready to carry on.
Nevertheless, if he is sidelined for four weeks, he will miss Premier League matches against West Ham, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Newcastle, and Europa League ties with Steaua Bucharest and FC Utrecht. Liverpool then host Fulham on December 18. Given his importance to them, the injury is a desperate blow to their season. (© Daily Telegraph, London)