Date: 18th November 2013 at 6:01pm
Written by:

Liverpool substitutionIT’S tough to level criticism at someone for wanting to play for their country, but I am a bit alarmed by Steven Gerrard’s insistence on trying to be fit for the Germany game on Tuesday.

I get why he wants to, I really do. He’s not going to get another chance in all probability to play against them, depending on the World Cup groups of course. England versus Germany is one of the great footballing rivalries. And if I was an England player, I would be out for revenge after the 4-1 embarrassment in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

But the timing of this is all off – from Liverpool’s point of view. I watched Gerrard go straight down the tunnel when substituted against Fulham last Saturday and I was expecting him to be withdrawn from the England squad.

That was the case, but I did not expect him to fight for the Germany game. Playing for England obviously means a lot to him, and he is captain and his time is running short at international level. Brendan Rodgers has hinted that the World Cup will be the end of Gerrard’s international career, which I would expect to be the case even if the man himself has had nothing to say on the issue.

But any risk to his fitness at all from a Liverpool perspective is extremely concerning. We’re currently second and enjoying one of our best starts to the season in the last twenty years. Our next game is away to Everton – win that and we go top, even if that could be temporary. We’re not exactly overstocked on quality in central midfield, in fact with the exception of left back it is arguably where we’re at our weakest.

We need Gerrard for games like at Goodison, where experience plays such a huge part. Even if he hasn’t always been at his best this season he is still indisputably a match winner – and you can’t have enough of those.

If he plays for England with pain killing injections (which is the plan) then I fear there’s a huge risk he might not be at his best for the derby – or he’ll wind up not playing at all. This is a massive gamble for our captain to be taking with our season entering a crucial phase.

I always cast my mind back to the game after the Carling Cup win two years ago when talking about injured players on international duty– Gerrard played 120 minutes plus penalties when we beat Cardiff, got injured on international duty (which was just a friendly) and missed the game after, which was at home to Arsenal. We would have been one point off 4th with a win, but we lost and our season went into a nosedive from which we didn’t recover.

Would Gerrard have had such a huge influence? I have no idea – but I know I would have fancied our chances of winning more with him in the team than without. The same applies for the game at Goodison.

He might come through the Germany game with no further issues, but I can’t help but think he needs to put Liverpool first. If anything goes wrong midweek, he’s out of the derby. It’s our biggest game of the season and just to repeat – we can go top with a win. For me he should withdraw from the squad and prepare to go out on a high with England at the end of the season.

I do understand the draw for him but a Merseyside derby with so much at stake should be where his loyalties lie on this occasion.

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