England v Hungary: contrite Steven Gerrard admits team face battle to win back fans
Who ate all the humble pies? England’s players have. Steven Gerrard even admits it will take “years’’ to turn around England’s fortunes and repair the fractured love affair with fans.
Published: 7:15AM BST 11 Aug 2010
Gerrard hopes to start the salvage operation by leading his chastened team to a friendly victory over Hungary at an unfriendly Wembley on Wednesday.
Still “hurting badly’’ from the 4-1 World Cup thrashing by a technically and tactically superior Germany, Gerrard was a mixture of contrition, realism and defiance as he reflected on the toxic fallout from that troubled trip to South Africa.
“It’s easy to say ‘Oh yeah, we’re sorry’ to the supporters but the supporters don’t want an apology in a press conference,’’ began Gerrard. “They want to see the team go out and show how sorry we are by performing well, turning things around and qualifying for the next tournament.
“It is not going to happen overnight. It is not going to happen in weeks and months. It is going to take years to turn this situation around. This is as low as it gets, going out the way we did. If we are going to have a successful tournament and we qualified well it would turn around.”
Two years of purdah are guaranteed. Even before proving themselves at Euro 2012, Gerrard and company must progress from a group involving Bulgaria, Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro. “I don’t think it will be easy to qualify. This group will be a lot harder than the World Cup one.’’
The squad were bruised but united. “Since we were knocked out it’s been really difficult to be an England player. We’ve received a lot of criticism, and rightly so. Knowing the players I am sure they were hurting and frustrated on that plane home.’’ He certainly was.
Retiring briefly invaded his dark thoughts. “It does cross your mind. But very quickly you switch back to thinking of hanging in and hopefully turning things around. I’ve always got confidence the manager will pick me. I felt as if I’d done quite well in South Africa. I’d worked my socks off to do everything I could.’’
He ridiculed suggestions of factions in the camp, and particularly tension between him and John Terry. “It is complete nonsense. It was just getting laughed at. There was no fallout with any players, team spirit was good. Maybe certain individuals had little frustrations that they dealt with themselves but I wasn’t aware of any rifts.
“I love playing for England. If we were to go to the semi-final of the Euros would it be worth the hassle? It would for me because I would be able to tell my kids. That’s the motivation for me – to try to get to a semi or final. England should be getting to semi-finals with the players we have.
“I don’t think there’s a technical deficiency between our players and other teams. There are five or six young players in the squad who, in the last couple of days, their standard has blown me away.’’
Steady. Gerrard swiftly accepted that England were behind the likes of Spain.
“There blatantly is a difference because they’ve gone and won the World Cup, so they’ve proved they are a lot better than us. They’re the benchmark. That’s where we need to get to. At the moment, we’re not up with the best.’’
So where are England? “Well, we went out in the last-16. You do the maths.’’
Why do England fail? “There is a fear there. That comes with the pressure of playing for England. I know we play big games for our clubs but England is bigger as far as pressure is concerned. Look at the criticism we have had since the World Cup. It went on for weeks and weeks. It shows what the England team means to people in the country.’’
Fabio Capello was not to blame, Gerrard argued. “It would’ve been stupid to get rid of the manager and start again with a different guy. Who out there is better than Capello? I’ve got total confidence in the manager and his coaching staff.’’
Liverpool’s captain bristled at a question that Capello wasted him on the left, a role he once decried as “the graveyard shift’’.
“I play the role the manager asks me to. I do it to the best of my ability. If you think I’m playing out of position and not bringing enough to this team then that’s your opinion. I am playing out of position, obviously, because I am a centre midfielder and I am out on the left and coming in late. Of course it is a different position to my favourite position. I still feel I am doing a good job for the team. I’m happy to do what Fabio Capello wants me to.’’
He shrugged at another great debate, at Capello playing Wayne Rooney too deep when Manchester United have used him so effectively up top.
“When he burst onto the scene at the Euros  he played in the No?10 role and everyone was like ‘wow, unbelievable in this position, No 10 is his role’. Then he had the season for United where he was probably the best player in the world. He is a great player in either role.
“Going into the tournament everyone was expecting Wayne to be player of the World Cup and score a lot of goals and fire us into the final. That’s unfair just to pick Wayne out. He wasn’t the only player to underperform.’’
Humility rules. For now.