Belfast Telegraph

This time I feel like captain of England: Gerrard

By Sam Wallace

Steven Gerrard claims he is captaining England "for real" at the World Cup for the first time after insisting Roy Hodgson's predecessor Fabio Capello never believed in him as a leader.

Gerrard, 34, was given the armband by default in South Africa four years ago after being promoted from vice-captain following an injury to Rio Ferdinand on the eve of the tournament.

Upon taking charge in December 2007, Capello handed Gerrard a trial in the role before opting for John Terry, whom he later replaced with Ferdinand after revelations about Terry's private life.

Hodgson named Gerrard as his permanent captain on the eve of Euro 2012 and has been unequivocally supportive of the Liverpool midfielder ever since. This has prompted Gerrard to hail the England manager's approach as the team prepare for their final warm-up match against Honduras before flying to Rio de Janeiro.

"It is actually the second World Cup I've been captain, but maybe this time it is for real," said Gerrard.

Asked to explain that comment, he added: "Capello didn't believe in me as his number one captain. Roy does.

"I think he did believe in me as a player, he rated me as a player, and our relationship was fine. At the time we picked the captain, he had Rio Ferdinand and John Terry and he thought they offered something different to him.

"I was third choice to him and that was his choice, but Roy has the confidence in me to be the captain this time.

"I'd behave in exactly the same way four years ago if John Terry had the armband on next to me.

"Just because I'm the captain we still have Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Phil Jagileka in there and I want them to be leaders with me, but I will enjoy it more as captain rather than vice-captain this time round, of course."

England trained at Barry University in their final session before returning to the Sun Life Stadium in Miami to face Honduras, who are currently ranked 32 in the world by Fifa.

Raheem Sterling will be suspended after his red card in Wednesday's 2-2 draw against Ecuador, but Hodgson insisted that the teenager's ban will not prevent him from being considered for selection when England begin the World Cup Group D campaign against Italy in Manaus on 14 June.

Hodgson described Sterling as "unstoppable" and "breathtaking" in training, adding: "He is an exceptional talent, along with our other exceptional talents. The dilemma, if you like, that I will have is there are more than 11 players that I actually think are more than capable of taking the field against Italy.

"I don't need to see a performance from him on the field to tell me that he is capable of playing if I decide to select him for the Italy game, but I am disappointed for him because I make no secret of the fact that I did intend to play him in this game."

Hodgson also confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will fly to Brazil with the team to give the Arsenal midfielder the maximum possible recovery time before making a decision on his involvement at the tournament.

England have until June 13 – 24 hours before their first game – to choose a replacement, with Hodgson hinting that Jon Flanagan or John Stones are likely to deputise should Oxlade-Chamberlain fail to recover.

Neither will fly to Brazil with the team – who depart straight after playing Honduras tonight – and while Flanagan is staying on in the United States with friends and Stones will return to England, both will remain on standby.

Belfast Telegraph


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