Gerrard: Players care about England

Steven Gerrard has rubbished the idea England players do not care about international football.

Last Updated: 08/10/13 at 06:41 Post Comment   

Steven Gerrard: Eager to qualify for the World Cup

Steven Gerrard: Eager to qualify for the World Cup

The 33-year-old leads England into the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland knowing back-to-back Wembley victories will sweep Roy Hodgson's men into next summer's World Cup Finals.

Four points would be enough if Ukraine fail to overcome Poland in Kiev on Friday, but anything less and England will find themselves in the play-offs, or even worse, eliminated altogether.

Past failures, such as missing out on Euro 2008, have sometimes led accusations that the players do not care about England, but that is an idea Gerrard rejects.

"It's nonsense to say that. Nonsense," Gerrard told the Daily Mirror.

"The pain and the agony - how long that lasted after we didn't qualify for Euro 2008 - I wish you could bottle that and show it to people who say those things and doubt how much we care.

"We care. Trust me, we care. No one cares more than the players.

"We understand the fans and media are passionate, but that's certainly the case in the dressing room.

"It's a shame the supporters and certain people can't go into the dressing room and see how we prepare and how much we want this.

"The word I use when people bring it up is just 'nonsense'."

Meanwhile Gerrard admits the spectre of missing out on a major tournament, as they did at Euro 2008, will hopefully drive his team-mates on to glory.

Speaking on behalf of official England partners William Hill, Gerrard said: "It was a very tough time in 2008.

"It was the lowest experience I have ever had as an England player and I don't want it to happen again.

"It was a horrible situation to be in. Hopefully the hurt and the pain from that time will help drive us all on."

In the tightest of groups, England do at least remain in charge of their own destiny.

Yet, as history shows, that tends to be no guarantee of a stress-free end to qualification.

In 2002, it took David Beckham's famous injury-time free-kick against Greece to secure the point required.

Two years later, a backs-to-the-wall effort in Turkey was needed.

The shambolic effort in 2008, when England only required a point but somehow ended up losing to a Croatia goal conceded on the counter-attack after the side coached for the final time by Steve McClaren fought back from two goals down, has gone down in the history books for the wrong reasons.

Even two years ago, a place at Euro 2012 was only claimed after a nervy ending to a trip to Montenegro that started so well.

"I am sure there will be nail-biting situations in the next couple of games when our backs will be against the wall," said Gerrard.

"All the players believe, and are very confident, we can get over the line by securing the two wins we need.

"Of course, the responsibility and pressure is on us but you can look at that in two ways.

"You can be nervous and dread it or you can be excited, really look forward and try to enjoy it.

"These are the games you dream of from a very young age, to be playing for England with the chance of qualifying for a World Cup in Brazil.

"That is what whets my appetite and I am sure the other lads feel the same."

The loss of Ashley Cole to a rib injury that has already ruled him out of Friday's encounter with Montenegro and, almost certainly, the Poland encounter as well is compensated for by the presence of Leighton Baines.

Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs has been called up as cover.


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