STEVEN GERRARD has heard the rumours doing the rounds. The surgery on his groin was a failure, Liverpool’s skipper will never play 90 minutes again and his best days have been consigned to the history books.
Thankfully, the truth is very different. The Reds’ inspirational leader has a spring in his step as he plots his comeback after six months on the sidelines.
Next week he will return to full training and he hopes to play some part in the game against Tottenham on September 18.
Gerrard feels “better than ever” and is ready to silence the doubters.
“To be honest it gets to the stage with me that if there are no rumours about my private life or my football it’s not normal,” said Gerrard in an exclusive interview with the ECHO. “I’m used to it all. I’ve heard the whispers – Gerrard is finished and he’s not going to be the player he was.
“I can’t worry or concentrate too much on what fans or people in the press are whispering to themselves. I can’t control all that. If people believe that’s the case then they will be in for a surprise. Hearing stuff like that doesn’t give me any extra motivation. The motivation for me is to captain this team to a successful season. I’m looking to come in, strengthen the squad and push on with the lads to hopefully have a good year.
“I’ve had a good rest. Of course I didn’t want that rest but I’m sure it will help me because I’ve played non-stop football since I was a young lad.”
One theory is that Gerrard will need to reinvent himself as a midfielder. That he will no longer be able to embark on the marauding runs which have graced Anfield for the past 13 years.
Gerrard, who has scored 140 goals in 556 appearances for the Reds, is having none of it.
“That’s the way I see it when I’m 35 or 36 but I’m only 31,” he says firmly.
“There will be no reinvention. I’ll come back the same player as I was. I still feel I’ve four or five years at the highest level.”
His confidence isn’t based on blind optimism but scientific facts.
“It’s not just what doctors and physios are telling me – the stats are there to prove it,” he said.
“My groin is tested when I’m working and the physios collect data. My groin scores now are better than before I even started feeling my groin.
“My groin has been fixed and is as strong as ever. What I’ve done over the past four weeks tells me that’s the case and I’ve got total confidence in it.
“I’m in good shape and feel better than ever. My body weight, fat levels and upper body strength are all good.
“But it will take time for people to see me out playing again and playing well for them to believe what I’m saying in this interview.”
Gerrard will be joining a rejuvenated squad in buoyant mood after an impressive start to the season.
Around £56million was spent bringing in seven new players during the transfer window and the skipper was hugely impressed by the show of ambition from owners Fenway Sports Group.
“The positivity around the place has come from the very top,” he said. “The owners have been superb and have backed Kenny really well. Damien Comolli and Kenny have been really smooth operators in the transfer window.
“They have shifted a lot of players who were no longer involved and were sitting on good contracts. They’ve done unbelievably well to move them on to other clubs.
“And they have brought in some quality players who are hungry and want to do well for the club.
“I’m really happy with the shape and the numbers we have in the squad and I’m excited about this season. You want to play with good players and I just can’t wait to get back and lead the lads out.
“After the first three league games things are looking good. We’ve started well and progressed to the next round of the Carling Cup. There’s a positive feeling around the training ground and around the games and now we need to try to maintain that. The only way to really do that is to keep winning. The team spirit and performances at the moment are where we want to keep them.”
After a barren few years Gerrard believes Liverpool are now well equipped to get back in the Champions League and end a silverware drought stretching back to his heroic display in the 2006 FA Cup final.
“As far as the league is concerned, a top four finish is vital,” he added.
“It’s important we bring Champions League football back to the club. We need to take each game as it comes and see where we are around Christmas time – that’s when you have a good look at it.
“Fingers crossed we are still in the title race when it comes down to the last 10 games – that’s the plan.
“Going out to Northampton in the Carling Cup was unacceptable last season and we want to go all the way in that competition this season. It would be nice to get a trophy in the locker early doors.
“The FA Cup is a massive trophy for us to aim for. We’ve had some great experiences in that and I’d love to play in another final. It’s time we had a trip to the new Wembley.”
Gerrard’s first target is pulling on a Red shirt for the first time in six months and after the longest break in his career he admits it will be a special moment.
“I’m just so excited about getting back out there,” he said.
“I want that feeling of getting that first win and being sat in the dressing room afterwards. At that point all the hard work I’ve put in and all the little setbacks I’ve had will be worthwhile because I love playing for this club.”