Gerrard still inspiring Liverpool team-mates, says Andy Carroll
The Liverpool striker Andy Carroll feels fortunate to play alongside a player as influential as Steven Gerrard.
The Anfield captain has been the club's driving force for the best part of a decade and is still the man they turn to when they are in need of a lift. It was no more evident than in the Merseyside derby a fortnight ago, when Gerrard scored a hat-trick as Liverpool beat near neighbours Everton 3-0.
"You see Stevie playing the way he did against Everton, scoring three and driving the team on. It was really inspiring," Carroll said. "I used to watch him when I was younger and pretend to be him on the field with my mates.
"I'm very lucky to be able to share a dressing room with him now. It's unbelievable."
Unfortunately for Liverpool, the England midfielder alone has not been able to drag the team out of their current slump.
The win over Everton was only one of two in the Premier League so far in 2012 and five defeats in six matches have all but put paid to their slim hopes of finishing in the top four and so qualifying for next season's Champions League.
Last month's Carling Cup triumph, the club's first trophy for six years, has ensured that not all the gloss has been taken off a season which began with high hopes, and there could be further silverware to come as an FA Cup semi-final awaits next month.
Gerrard has won every major club honour except the Premier League title and, with his 32nd birthday approaching in May, time may be running out on that front. But he could still lift his second trophy of the season and if Liverpool were to win the two competitions in which they realistically had chances then the season could be considered a qualified success.
Carroll still sees the determination burning bright in Gerrard, adding in LFC magazine: "He's had an amazing career but you still know he's desperate to achieve more. It's the hunger you see every day, the determination to win more games, win medals and trophies."
Gerrard's reputation extends much further than the confines of England –or even Europe. Liverpool's Uruguay centre-back Sebastian Coates knew about the midfielder's talents long before he joined the club last summer from Nacional in his homeland.
"His reputation is worldwide," said the 21-year-old centre-back on liverpoolfc.tv. When I was younger in Uruguay I would see a lot of the Champions League games that Liverpool were involved in. He was always so influential, putting in some fantastic performances. He is the kind of player that everybody hopes to one day call a team-mate. It is an education to be on the same side as him."
Educational it may be but it seems a number of Gerrard's team-mates are not learning the lessons. Since edging past Championship side Cardiff City in a penalty shoot-out to win the Carling Cup at Wembley, Liverpool appear to have gone backwards.
They have conceded eight goals in six league matches as a previously solid back four has looked increasingly wobbly, highlighted by the three goals they conceded to strugglers Queen's Park Rangers in the final 13 minutes of their defeat at Loftus Road a week ago.
Even second from bottom Wigan Athletic, the league's lowest scorers, put two past them at Anfield at the weekend for only their fifth win of the season. The absence of Daniel Agger with a cracked rib has had an unsettling effect, with his regular centre-back partner Martin Skrtel, probably their best player this season, looking shaky.
Most of manager Kenny Dalglish's summer signings have come in for criticism, with even Jose Enrique, probably the most consistent of all the new arrivals, losing his way in recent weeks. Midfielder Charlie Adam has forfeited his place to the former youth team captain Jay Spearing while Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, brought in at a combined cost of £36m, continue to give more cause for frustration than celebration.
Coates has escaped the criticism as his appearances have been sporadic but he is keen to learn as much as he can as quickly as possible in order to be in a better position next season.
"During the sessions I watch all of my team-mates closely because you can learn from any position, not just your own," he said. "It is a privilege to train and play with them. I feel more settled now and I am enjoying the football. I know I have to be patient to play more games, purely because the other defenders have been so consistent for a long time."