Thursday 22 March 2018

Hurting Gerrard eager to atone

Henry Winter

WHO ate all the humble pies? England's players have. Steven Gerrard even admits it will take "years'' to turn around England's fortunes and repair the fractured love affair with fans. Gerrard hopes to start the salvage operation by leading his chastened team to a friendly victory over Hungary at an unfriendly Wembley tonight.

Still "hurting badly'' from the 4-1 World Cup thrashing by a technically and tactically superior Germany, Gerrard was a mixture of contrition, realism and defiance as he reflected yesterday on the toxic fall-out from that troubled trip to South Africa.

"It's easy to say 'oh yeah, we're sorry' to the supporters, but the supporters don't want an apology in a press conference,'' he said. "They want to see the team go out and show how sorry we are by performing well, turning things around and qualifying for the next tournament.

"This is not going to happen overnight. This is not going to happen in weeks and months. It is going to take years to turn this situation around. This is low as it gets, going out the way we did.

"If we are going to have a successful tournament and we qualified well, it would turn around.''

Two years of Purdah are guaranteed. Even before proving themselves at Euro 2012, Gerrard and company must progress from a group involving Bulgaria, Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro. "I don't think this will be easy to qualify. This group will be a lot harder than the World Cup one.''

The squad were bruised but united. "Since we were knocked out it's been really difficult to be an England player. We've received a lot of criticism and rightly so. Knowing the players I am sure they were hurting and frustrated on that plane home.''

Gerrard certainly was hurting. Retirement briefly invaded his dark thoughts. "It does cross your mind at times. But very quickly you switch back to thinking of hanging in and hopefully, turning things round.

"I've always got confidence the manager will pick me. I felt as if I'd done quite well in South Africa. I'd worked my socks off to do everything I could.''

He ridiculed suggestions of factions in the Rustenburg camp, and particularly tension between him and the outspoken John Terry.

"It is complete nonsense. It was just getting laughed at. There was no fall-out with any players, team spirit was good. Maybe certain individuals had little frustrations that they dealt with themselves, but I wasn't aware of any rifts.

"I don't think there's a technical deficiency between our players and other teams'. There are five or six young players in the squad, who, in the last couple of days, their standard has blown me away.''

Steady. Gerrard swiftly accepted that England were behind the likes of Spain. "There blatantly is a difference because they've gone and won the World Cup, so they've proved they are a lot better than us as a team. They're top players. They're the benchmark. That's where we need to get. At the moment, we're not up with the best.''

So where were England? "Well, we went out in the last 16. You do the maths.'' (© Daily Telegraph, London)

England v Hungary,

Live, UTV, 8.0

Irish Independent

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