Belfast Telegraph

I've so much to offer Pool starlets, says coach Gerrard

By Carl Markham

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insists his return to the club as an academy coach is not sentimental and he plans to make a real contribution to the development of young players.

The 36-year-old said taking a full-time job at the club's Kirkby complex felt like "completing the circle" having himself graduated from the youth ranks.

Gerrard had a 17-year professional career with the Reds, having joined Liverpool while still at primary school, and is considered one of their greatest ever players and he is about to rekindle his love affair after an 18-month spell in Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"It feels like completing the circle; returning to the place where professionally it all began," said the former midfielder, who made 710 appearances for the club.

"However, this isn't a decision based on emotion - it's about what I can offer and contribute to Liverpool.

"I don't think I need to explain to people what this football club means to me but when I knew coming back was a serious option, I wanted to make sure it was a substantive role and a role in which I could really help the organisation.

"Meeting with (academy director) Alex Inglethorpe, seeing the work they are currently doing and want to do in the future at Kirkby, it just felt right. The right option at the right time, for all parties involved.

"This gives me a great opportunity to learn and develop as a coach, while at the same time offering my knowledge, ideas and experience to the young players at an important period of their development."

Gerrard, who retired from football in November, has been a regular presence at the academy since ending his playing association with the club as he worked on his coaching badges.

First-team manager Jurgen Klopp has consistently stressed the door was always open for the former midfielder - who turned down the chance to move into management with MK Dons in November - to return in some capacity and Inglethorpe believes Gerrard's appointment will prove hugely beneficial for all parties.

"If I was to pick one individual who embodies the characteristics and values we are looking to instil into our organisation at Kirkby it would be Steven Gerrard," said the academy director.

"For him to have been so enthusiastic about being part of what we are looking to do is simply great news for everyone.

"I don't think it would surprise anyone to know that Steven has had a host of great options, in terms of what to do next in his career, including playing, management and coaching. But it's been evident from the first meeting with him that his heart and head belongs here.

"He has shown great humility in making it clear from the outset he wants a role where he can contribute to Liverpool; it's typical of him that his priority has been defining the role so it helps the club ahead of himself."

• Stoke have signed West Brom striker Saido Berahino for a fee of £12m on a five-and-a-half-year deal while West Ham have signed Southampton captain Jose Fonte for £8m on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Premier League fixtures: Today (3pm unless stated): Liverpool v Swansea City (12.30), Bournemouth v Watford, Crystal Palace v Everton, Middlesbrough v West Ham, Stoke City v Manchester United, West Brom v Sunderland, Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur (5.30)

Tomorrow: Southampton v Leicester City (12pm), Arsenal v Burnley (2.15pm), Chelsea v Hull City (4.30pm).

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