Ger­rard sees derby as a step to­wards ti­tle Liver­pool cap­tain ad­mits lack of league medal is ‘huge hole’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

LIVER­POOL cap­tain Steven Ger­rard heads into the Mersey­side derby against Ever­ton ad­mit­ting there will be a “huge hole” in his ca­reer if he re­tires with­out win­ning the League.

Ger­rard has en­joyed a mag­nif­i­cent ca­reer with Liver­pool and is al­ready re­garded as one of the club’s all-time greats af­ter al­most sin­gle- hand­edly in­spir­ing their 2005 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal win over AC Mi­lan.

The Eng­land mid­fielder cher­ishes the mem­ory of his hero­ics that night in Is­tan­bul and also a year later in the FA Cup fi­nal win over West Ham.

But he knows the ab­sence of a Pre­mier League win­ners medal from his glit­ter­ing CV is a ma­jor blem­ish.

Af­ter a sur­pris­ingly strong start to the sea­son lifted Liver­pool to sec­ond place, two points be­hind lead­ers Arse­nal go­ing into this weekend, Ger­rard finds him­self in with a chance of fi­nally mount­ing a se­ri­ous ti­tle chal­lenge

And, speak­ing be­fore to­day’s clash with city ri­vals Ever­ton at Good­i­son Park, Ger­rard made it clear he won’t give up fight­ing for the crown.

“There’d be a hole miss­ing in my ca­reer (with­out a ti­tle win) but I don’t think I’d spend the rest of my life be­ing ir­ri­tated or an­noyed or frus­trated,” Ger­rard said.

“Since I broke into this team at 18 I’ve tried to win the ti­tle but it hasn’t hap­pened. I’ve got a cou­ple more chances and I’ll con­tinue to fight for it.”

The 221st Mersey­side derby will be Ever­ton man­ager Roberto Martinez’s first taste of one of foot­ball’s most fre­netic fixtures and he knows the key to tak­ing the brag­ging rights is stop­ping Liver­pool strik­ers Luis Suarez and Daniel Stur­ridge. “They have had a very good start to the sea­son and are very in­flu­en­tial.

“They have got a real goalscor­ing threat. But as a team, you are al­ways used to cop­ing with threats of the op­po­si­tion.”

An Ever­ton win would take them level with Liver­pool on 23 points and goal­keeper Tim Howard said the derby was al­ways a spe­cial day for the city.

“As an Amer­i­can we have lo­cal ri­val­ries but they can be hun­dreds of miles apart,” Howard told the club’s web­site.

“I en­cour­age my fam­ily and friends to come over for it. I tell them they have to ex­pe­ri­ence the Mersey­side derby, there is noth­ing like it, that fever pitch, that buzz around the city.

“Any­thing can hap­pen in a derby and it’s al­ways ex­cit­ing to feel like you are go­ing to be a part of some­thing spe­cial.

“When you are on a los­ing end of a derby it hurts, it’s not like any other loss and for a few days af­ter­wards it’s not easy to get out of bed.

“Con­versely if you win the derby you are float­ing on air and all’s well with the world. This sea­son though, more than any I re­mem­ber, both teams will be right up there, it’s more than lo­cal pride that’s at stake.”

Ever­ton lifted the last of their nine league ti­tles in 1987 but since the ar­rival of the Pre­mier League in 1992 they have cracked the top four only once, in 2005.

An FA Cup win in 1995 and a fi­nal de­feat to Chelsea in 2009 have been the rare high­lights since the glo­ri­ous mid- 80s pe­riod un­der Howard Ken­dall.

How­ever, even dur­ing that spell, the most suc­cess­ful in the club’s his­tory, they could never quite shake off their red­shirted neigh­bours.

Hopes of back- to- back cham­pi­onships were foiled when Liver­pool edged them to the ti­tle in 1986 and the Reds also beat them in three 1980s cup fi­nals.

Though Liver­pool too have suf­fered a long ti­tle drought since their 18th and last suc­cess in 1990, they have con­tin­ued to hold by far the up­per hand when it comes to the Mersey­side derby.

If Liver­pool slip up at Good­i­son in to­day’s early game, Arse­nal will have a chance to move fur­ther clear with a win over Southamp­ton at the Emi­rates Sta­dium.

Arsene Wenger’s team should be boosted by the re­turn to fit­ness of for­mer Southamp­ton winger Theo Wal­cott af­ter two months out fol­low­ing ab­dom­i­nal surgery.

“Of course you miss a player like Theo Wal­cott,” Wenger said.

“Strik­ers who get be­hind the de­fend­ers have a very im­por­tant qual­ity and Theo has that qual­ity.

“He can al­ways give you a dif­fer­ent op­tion in the game and that is of course vi­tal.”

Third- placed Saints will travel to north Lon­don look­ing to main­tain their im­pres­sive run and boss Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino in­sists his side have no rea­son to fear the Gun­ners.

“We be­lieve that we can play a very good game and we can get a very pos­i­tive re­sult in this game – we al­ways be­lieve that,” Po­chet­tino said.

Chelsea, four points be­hind Arse­nal in fourth place, can’t af­ford another slip when they make the short trip across Lon­don to face West Ham at Up­ton Park.

Jose Mour­inho’s men have failed to win their last two league matches, los­ing to New­cas­tle and draw­ing with West Bromwich, while West Ham are also in need of the points af­ter a run of four games with­out a win left them above the rel­e­ga­tion zone only on goal dif­fer­ence.

Tomorrow, cham­pi­ons Manch­ester United face Cardiff.

United went into the in­ter­na­tional break boosted by a 1-0 win over Arse­nal which re­vived their flag­ging ti­tle de­fence, but they still have lit­tle mar­gin for er­ror in the race to catch the lead­ers.

Manch­ester City take on Tot­ten­ham in one of the weekend’s most eye- catch­ing fixtures be­tween a pair of ti­tle con­tenders both strug­gling to live up to that billing.

City slumped to a shock de­feat at Sun­der­land in their last match and are six points adrift of Arse­nal, while Tot­ten­ham are only one point and one place bet­ter off af­ter a 1-0 home loss against New­cas­tle. – AFP/Reuters

GETTY IM­AGES

FAVOURITE SON: Steven Ger­rard in ac­tion for his beloved Liver­pool. Ger­rard’s sights are still set on bag­ging a League crown.

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