Gerrard sees derby as a step towards title Liverpool captain admits lack of league medal is ‘huge hole’
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
FAVOURITE SON: Steven Gerrard in action for his beloved Liverpool. Gerrard’s sights are still set on bagging a League crown.