Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Gerrard prompted by Reds' CL return

Steven Gerrard says a return to Champions League football for Liverpool was a factor in his decision

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits the club's return to the Champions League was one of the factors in his decision to retire from international football.

The 34-year-old was used judiciously by Reds manager Brendan Rodgers last season and as a result made 34 Premier League appearances, only one of which was as a substitute.

With the additional demands of Europe's elite club competition - which Gerrard famously helped Liverpool win in 2005 - for the first time in five years, England's third-highest appearance maker has decided now is a good time to bow out.

"Obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field," said the midfielder who, with 114 caps, is only behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton (124) and David Beckham (115).

"To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool Football Club I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision."

Gerrard will probably be criticised by some for putting club before country but there will be as many, if not more, who will agree now is the time for him to step down from the national side.

A disastrous summer saw England exit the World Cup in Brazil after just two matches and Roy Hodgson had a degree of rebuilding to do anyway but would probably have wanted Gerrard to stay on a while longer to ease the transition.

"While I'm disappointed in the decision I can entirely understand Steven's situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country," Hodgson told thefa.com.

"I must respect his wishes due to the discussions we have had and the amount of thought and consideration he himself has given it.

"He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer who we have all been blessed to see in an England shirt so often.

"It is never by coincidence that people reach such a staggering figure as 114 caps, it is a mark of his wonderful talent allied to a huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard.

"He is not only a player to bring crowds to their feet with moments of brilliance; he was a tremendous captain and an exceptional role model for everyone who was fortunate to come into contact with him.

"We shall miss his leadership qualities as we look ahead to the qualification campaign with a youthful group of players.

"I wish him all the best in the future, although I know I can count on his continued support and influence as a helpful presence moving forward."

Gerrard put a lot of thought into his decision after a disappointing World Cup and it is not as a result of a knee-jerk reaction.

"This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I've had to make in my career," he told FATV.

"I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point.

"I'd like to firstly thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my England journey.

"I'd also like to thank everyone who has been part of my international career, from the England managers I've played under to the staff at the FA and, of course, all the players I've been fortunate to play alongside.

"In particular, the supporters have been amazing, not least in Brazil when they got behind the team despite the disappointing results.

"I'd especially like to thank Roy (Hodgson), firstly for giving me the captaincy permanently when he took the job, making me the proudest man in the country and allowing me to fulfil my childhood dream.

"He has been very understanding over the past few weeks and is a man I will always hold in the highest regard."

The debate will now begin over who succeeds Gerrard as captain for their next game, a friendly against Norway at Wembley before the European Championship qualifiers begin away to Switzerland.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is the favourite with Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart and Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill also in the running with bookmakers.

Gerrard says he is willing to advise Hodgson on who should replace him as captain.

"I'm here for advice on the next England captain," Gerrard added.

"I'm sure Roy will give it to the right person and I hope they show it the same respect that I have."

Gerrard is sure England are set for a bright future under Hodgson despite their poor showing in Brazil.

"I'm sure Roy will help make the England supporters proud again," Gerrard said.

"He's a fantastic manager and I'm glad The FA have stuck with him."

Gerrard, who has been given an ambassadorial role with the FA, has started taking his coaching badges, but he is unsure whether he wants to go into coaching or management when he hangs his boots up for good.

Gary Neville made the transition from player to England coach a year after he retired from the game and there could be scope for Gerrard to do the same.

"My relationship with The FA will continue moving forward and I'm sure over the next 20, 30, 40 years, I will work for England again," he added.

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