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My last chance: Now or never for World Cup, admits Gerrard

03 Jun 2009 07:52:33

My last chance: Now or never for World Cup, admits Gerrard

Inside the mind of Steven Gerrard, the clock is ticking. There is a year to close the gap on Spain - 13 months before his last realistic chance to win a World Cup has passed. There is a sense of urgency in just about everything Liverpool's captain says during a fascinating interview at the England team hotel. The need to run down Manchester United. The need to respond to the threat Chelsea pose now that Carlo Ancelotti, a manager he considers something of a tactical genius, is in charge. Even the need for Michael Owen to escape the clutches of Newcastle United and get himself back to a 'big club'. Mr Motivated: Steven Gerrard wants England glory before it is too late 'Don't use that quote,' he says with a smile, knowing very well that it is already too late. 'I meant to say bigger club.' Not to worry old chap. Big clubs do not meet Scunthorpe and Peterborough in the league.    England poised to go Green: West Ham star set to be Capello's No1Ferdinand forced out of England squad as Capello turns to Bolton's Cahill for coverLescott relishing role alongside Terry the teacher when England take on Kazakhstan Milner steps in as injured Carrick pulls out of England's World Cup games In fairness to the Footballer of the Year, his mind is focused onmore pressing matters. On beating Kazakhstan this Saturday and Andorranext Wednesday, so taking a significant step towards next summer'sWorld Cup. And on arriving in South Africa as a member of a teamcapable of conquering the side he considers the favourites, the sidethat includes Iniesta, Xavi, Torres and Villa. The stylish, oftensensational, Spaniards. Gerrard missed the friendly in Seville in February when Spain won2-0 but he could see there was an alarming gulf in class. Just as hecould see exactly how good some of the Spaniards were when they crushedManchester United, in the colours of Barcelona, in Rome last week. 'It's difficult to say how far off we are,' he says. 'But it's clear that Spain are the benchmark for this team. Theyhave to be massive favourites for South Africa given how well they'vebeen playing of late and how well they played against us. Players likeXavi and Iniesta are world class, and if they're on their games theycan be just about unplayable. Setting the benchmark: Gerrard feels England must match the qualities of Spain's 'unplayable' duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi to stand any chance in South Africa 'But it was good that we played them, to get an idea of how goodthey are and what we need to improve on by the time we get to SouthAfrica.' Vision is what England require. The vision of manager Fabio Capello who Gerrard believes has the all-important X-factor. 'I think he can make the difference,' says Gerrard. 'I'll be 30 and in my prime so it will be my final shot at success''He could be the key to the side having a successful World Cup. He'sone of those managers, among the best. Managers who are that good canmake the difference and I'm so happy to have him here. It's a pleasureto work with him and his staff. They are focused and they're winnersand if they can translate that into the team, and we can listen andlearn, I'm confident we can do well. 'They've started to transfer it across already. We don't want to becarried away. There's still a long way to go, a lot of improvement tomake before we can win. But I'm certainly confident we can do betterthan we've performed before. 'We need to be more difficult to beat, more ruthless in the finalthird, every part of the team. You can never stop improving and thatgoes for individuals as well as the team. We've got 12 months to becomea force in the World Cup and that's the challenge.' For Gerrard, it is now that they have to do better, now that theyhave to make that step. Time is running out and it is time, in hismind, to deliver. 'I'll be 30 when it comes round so, for me, it will be the last chance of doing well at a World Cup,' he says. 'That's my motivation - I'll be going there in my prime. Verystrong. But I can't be sure of still being in that shape when I'm 34. Ican't look that far ahead.' Becks appeal: Gerrard salutes Beckham for maintaining his peak fitness during his twilight years 'But what about Beckham?' someone suggests. 'But he's Beckham,' says Gerrard smiling. 'David is in fantastic condition, a role model for me, and if Icould be in his shape at his age (34) I would love nothing better thanto give the World Cup another go. But you never know and you can't planfor that. I have to focus on what's coming now.' Before the World Cup comes another crack at the Barclays PremierLeague title, the one major club trophy that has so far eluded him atLiverpool. He wants it badly, more so than ever, again because theclock is ticking. 'We've finished the season without a trophy and that hurts,' headds. 'At Liverpool progress has been made. We're getting really closeto being champions so our next two or three signings are vital to pushon and try to go one better than this year. 'We need more players on the Fernando Torres level. Torres is amassive player. You saw the impact he made in his first season for usand how good he's been when he's been fit this year. If we can keepTorres fit and add a bit more quality, we feel we can become champions. 'United won the league this year because they had that little bit ofspark coming off the bench, that little bit more strength in depth. Ifwe can add two or three more to the quality we've already got in thesquad then I feel we will be on a par with them.' From Ancelotti, however, comes a new concern. Top of the pots: Gerrard believes Chelsea have hired a 'fantastic manager' in Carlo Ancelotti - one he knows all too well 'He's a fantastic manager,' Gerrard says of Chelsea's new boss. 'If you look at AC Milan and what they did to us in the first halfin Istanbul, it was breathtaking. They nearly won the game in the firsthalf. They blew us away and it could have easily been five or six. 'Then you look at what he did to us two years later, beating us 2-1.He's very organised, and he can change formation at any time. Therewere times in the first half in Istanbul, and in Athens, when I waslooking around thinking, "they've changed again".' Owen needs a change. The kind of change that might enable him to secure an England recall. 'I'm a player, not a scout or a manager,' says Gerrard. 'But if Iwas, I would be giving Michael a ring. I'm a big fan and I'd like tosee him get his England career back on track.' For the most part because Gerrard wants winners in South Africa.  England poised to go Green: West Ham star set to be Capello's No1Ferdinand forced out of England squad as Capello turns to Bolton's Cahill for coverLescott relishing role alongside Terry the teacher when England take on Kazakhstan Milner steps in as injured Carrick pulls out of England's World Cup games


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