Belfast Telegraph

Song: Gerrard was my Kop idol

Alex Song will come up against his idol Steven Gerrard on Saturday - having first met the Liverpool skipper as an awe-struck child.

Former Arsenal midfielder Song is in line to make his full West Ham debut, and is likely to spend the afternoon looking to keep Gerrard, the man he believes is Liverpool's greatest ever player, as quiet as possible.

Having made his Hammers bow in Monday night's 2-2 draw at Hull, the 27-year-old Cameroon international is once again looking forward to locking horns with the former England captain.

"It's not just focused on one player but I think Gerrard is the best player I've seen in a Liverpool shirt for me. It's my own opinion," said Song, who is on loan from Barcelona.

"I have played against him a lot and every time I play against him, I have thought, 'Today will be very hard'.

"He has achieved a lot of things at Liverpool and is still only 34 years old. But he is still good enough to play - he can play maybe till he's 40. When I see him run, he is a very good example to the young players coming through.

"I think it is very important to have those kind of loyal players who play for Liverpool for a long time. It is a very different team when Gerrard is not in it.

"I like Stevie's style and the way he plays. When you are a midfielder, you try to watch other midfielders and how they play. For me, he is a great player - one of the best.

"I always try to watch the best players in my position and try to learn. Gerrard is one of the players I was watching when I was young."

Song's respect for Gerrard is well-rooted after he first met him during a trip to England to visit his cousin Rigobert Song, who was at Liverpool at the time.

He said: "I remember the first time I played against Liverpool was unbelievable. The first time I went to England was 1999 when I was watching Rigobert play. It was crazy because I took some pictures with the players - I was 12 years old.

"Then Rigobert gave me Gerrard's shirt from that day and I have kept it. I was training every single day in it and then when I played at Anfield it was against Gerrard, (Michael) Owen and (Robbie) Fowler - I never forgot this in my life.

"That day, I still have the picture I took with Fowler, and I was looking before the game to say their life was crazy and now I'm playing against them. That is a very good thing.

"I have still got the shirt. When you are young and someone gives you a shirt, you have to keep it."

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce will be hoping Song is not in awe of Gerrard on Saturday as he looks to prevent the Liverpool skipper having the same impact he did in the corresponding fixture last season.

Gerrard scored two penalties either side of a Guy Demel goal to earn a 2-1 win for Brendan Rodgers' side - their ninth successive victory in what proved to ultimately be an unsuccessful push for the Barclays Premier League title.

West Ham will still be without a host of names for the game at Upton Park, with Matt Jarvis (thigh), Andy Carroll (ankle), Kevin Nolan (shoulder) and Joey O'Brien (knee) all missing and James Collins (hamstring) still a doubt.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is looking to his established players to take up some of the slack while his summer signings bed in properly.

The Reds have had a mixed start to the Premier League season with two wins and two defeats in their opening four matches as they try to integrate a number of new arrivals.

Rodgers expects his side to consistently find their peak performance level in the second half of the campaign, as they did last season when a brilliant run of results saw them finish runners-up to Manchester City.

But while that 'bedding in' process continues, Rodgers will look to the players who have worked under him for a while to compensate in some way, highlighted by him giving Jordan Henderson more responsibility by making him vice-captain this week.

"I think they naturally do that, I think that is part of the process here," Rodgers said of the way his senior players spread the load.

"We are about the team and we will attack and defend, win and lose as a team, but with the new players coming in it does take a bit of time - but it is not an excuse.

"While you are letting the players settle you need to win matches."

Twelve months ago Liverpool had 10 points from four matches, compared to six this season, but that does not concern Rodgers.

Defensively there have been lapses while half of their six goals came in a 3-0 win at Tottenham but the Northern Irishman is looking at a longer-term aim.

"There's no magic formula, it's just constant work on the training field," added Rodgers, ahead of the trip to West Ham.

"I remember this time last year, we were sat in press conferences and the questions I was getting asked were about whether we were going to be able to score goals. We ended up with 101 goals.

"It's just time and patience with players. The way we were playing in March, April and May last season we weren't playing that way last September. It'll be the same this year.

"I've always said by the time the second part of the season comes, we'll always be stronger and better.

"The Tottenham game we were outstanding but had a poor international break because we lost a number of our players and that upset our rhythm a bit coming into the Villa game (a 1-0 defeat last weekend), where we had to change our structure.

"Against Aston Villa, we weren't at our level in the final third. They defended well and got the result, but we moved on from that.

"We've got players adapting to a different country, not just a new team, so naturally that takes that little bit more time.

"I've been really pleased with how the players have settled in and experience tells me they'll get better."

Because expectations are higher there has been criticism of Liverpool's perceived failure to immediately replicate the style of football which propelled them so far last season with former Liverpool defender-turned-pundit Jamie Carragher offering his opinions.

"There are a lot of experts in the game now," was Rodgers' response.

"I read the papers constantly and I keep getting told how to play and it is the same on the telly.

"We will always find different ways to win games, that is something I have always done all my career."

Defender Martin Skrtel returns to the Liverpool squad to face West Ham after recovering from a knee injury which has sidelined him for three matches.

Fellow defender Glen Johnson (thigh) is unlikely to be ready to come back while Jon Flanagan has undergone an operation on a troublesome knee.

Midfielder Joe Allen has still not recovered from a knee injury sustained on international duty while Daniel Sturridge is edging closer to a return from a thigh strain.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph