Belfast Telegraph

Steven Gerrard's FA Cup return? A big call for Brendan Rodgers

By Steven Beacom

Steven Gerrard's name echoed around Anfield. And he wasn't even playing last night as Liverpool strolled to a 2-0 Premier League victory over Newcastle.

Such is his hero status amongst Reds fans.

Raheem Sterling told a weekend magazine that he'd love his own song from the Kop.

More goals like the opener against the Magpies and taking the £100,000 per week contract offer on the table and I'm sure the scouse lyricists will come up with something catchy.

It's hard to imagine though the 20-year-old, gifted and all that he is, will ever be cherished by Liverpool supporters as much as his captain.

Come Sunday the same song for the Liverpool skipper will be aired during the FA Cup semi-final with Aston Villa.

The question is, having served a three-match suspension after his 38-second appearance and red card against Manchester United, will he be hearing it from the bench or the lush Wembley turf?

It's a big call for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

And it is likely to dominate the build up to what could be a season defining encounter for the Merseysiders.

Ever since the former England midfielder announced he was leaving his home city behind for the bright lights of Los Angeles, there has been a supporter led campaign to 'Get Gerrard to Wembley'.

That slogan was more to do with the FA Cup final on May 30, the date of Gerrard's 35th birthday, but with the semi also at the most famous football stadium on the planet, the interest in Stevie G will be off the scale.

Don't change a winning team they say. They should add 'unless it can be improved' and Rodgers will have to weigh this up in his mind.

Against United, Gerrard, having made his comeback from injury a few days previously as a substitute in a win over Swansea, was itching to start but the manager kept him on a leash.

When he did come off the bench, seething after watching his team-mates allow the enemy to dominate and desperate to change that with his half-time introduction, he momentarily lost the plot, stamped on Ander Herrera and was sent off.

So what does the Ulsterman do with the Kop idol this time?

Obviously Jordan Henderson will play in the middle of the park, but what about Lucas and Joe Allen, who scored his first league goal at Anfield in the second half last night?

Gerrard could replace either. With his quality and experience he's got to start, hasn't he? And surely he will control his feelings this time in what will be an emotional week with the 26th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy tomorrow.

There's also the fact that Aston Villa will put up a much stronger fight than a weak Newcastle outfit did last night, though they could count themselves unlucky not to be awarded the clearest of penalties when Dejan Lovren felled Ayoze Perez with Liverpool a goal ahead.

Sterling provided it early on - a splendid finish. He should have had two more after the break. Put that in your shisha pipe and smoke it Raheem!

Liverpool remain in the hunt for a top four place, but the FA Cup represents their best glory chance this season. Rodgers knows it. Big game. He needs his big players to deliver. Gerrard is still one of those.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph