Roy to 'Pool resources

Hodgson urges stars to step up without Gerrard and refutes row with Johnson

Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is confident he has enough match- winners in his squad to make up for the absence of captain Steven Gerrard.

The 30-year-old is sidelined with a hamstring tear sustained on England duty in the midweek defeat by France.

Since the opening match of the season the midfielder or striker Fernando Torres have been responsible for either creating or scoring all of Liverpool's Premier League goals.


Without Gerrard it could be argued their capabilities have been reduced by more than half, with Torres relying heavily on his captain and still not yet at his consistent best.

But Hodgson is hopeful the rest of the team will pull together to negate the key midfielder's absence, starting this evening at home to Premier League bottom side West Ham.

"We have Fernando Torres, we have David Ngog who has scored some important goals, Raul Meireles can score goals and Dirk Kuyt has chipped in with plenty over the years," said the Reds boss. "We've got people at the back who can chip in with goals so I'm not that concerned in that respect.

"But we haven't scored enough goals and not made enough of our possession in the final third.

"Let's hope that will improve and if it does then maybe we will take a little bit of heat off Steven Gerrard and in some way disguise his absence."

Defender Glen Johnson is set to return to action tomorrow after missing three matches with a groin problem.

There had been reports the England international had fallen out with Hodgson after being criticised for not reaching his best form this season.

It was suggested the right-back wanted to leave in January but Hodgson stressed he felt the player had a long future at the club.

"As far as I'm concerned he has, and I think as far as he's concerned he has," he said. "Once again we're talking storms in tea cups and people trying to make something out of nothing. My relationship with Johnson has been very good since I came to the club, and he's always played in the team when he's fit.

"As far as I'm concerned he's the Liverpool right-back and the England right-back and we're very happy to welcome him back into the team now that he's fit again."

While fellow defender Fabio Aurelio is also set to return to the squad after just one substitute appearance since the end of August, there was more bad news when midfielder Jay Spearing -- who would have been hoping to benefit from Gerrard's absence -- was injured in training yesterday. The 21-year-old cracked a bone just above his ankle and will be out for six weeks.


"Unfortunately right at the end of the training session, which was five-a-side and not at all a competitive game, he turned his ankle and cracked a small bone just above the ankle in his fibula," explained Hodgson.

"That means he is going to be missing for six weeks. It is a terrible blow for Jay and us. He has been doing ever so well and getting closer and closer to a place in the first team.

"I was considering using him in this game, possibly even starting him."