Steven Gerrard: Beat Chelsea and Liverpool's season is a success
Liverpool captain insists only FA Cup final victory can make up for woeful league form
Everton, who are seventh in the Premier League, would probably wince at the words but they surely have to agree with the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, who insisted yesterday as he prepared for Saturday's FA Cup final that "there's a satisfaction to winning a cup that you don't get from finishing fifth or sixth in the league".
Dalglish, whose side trail David Moyes' men by three points in eighth place, sat down to speak in the Anfield trophy room an hour before his club's principal owner, John W Henry, stepped out of the sunshine and into the stadium. Henry, who wants a top-four finish and Champions League lucre, thus missed the personal assessment of captain Steven Gerrard – that victory over Chelsea on Saturday would allow Liverpool to deem this a successful season, with the Carling Cup already tucked into the trophy cabinet behind him.
Liverpool's miserable 1-0 home defeat to Fulham on Tuesday evening, in an atmosphere better resembling a training match, did not affect Gerrard's contention that "this club is all about winning trophies; big trophies – and the FA Cup comes under that. We will assess the season after the weekend. If we can look back and say we have won two cups, then we will be happy. We need to address the problem of our league position. But silverware is success. That's why we play the game. Some of the biggest experiences we have had over the years is from winning cups – the European Cup, the FA Cup, the Uefa Cup, the Carling Cup. Those are the nights and days that you look back on with fond memories."
Dalglish was not prepared to deliver an assessment of how the season might be viewed if his own side beat Roberto Di Matteo's. "In the league, it's 38 games and at the end of it you finish in a certain position and that tells you how successful it has been," he said. "In cup competitions there aren't as many games and if you get beat you are out. There is an obsession with the Premier League because of what it holds for every club and the financial value and the rewards you get for finishing in the top four and getting into the Champions League."
Dalglish, who will be without only the long-term injured Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam for the 5.15pm kick-off on Saturday, described in his programme notes for the semi final with Everton how the trophy-winning ability he has restored creates "the younger generation of Liverpool supporters who can now start to tell their own stories about what it is like to make the trip". The Liverpool manager was as sensitive as ever to how his answers to a series of questions might be construed and was particularly unwilling to engage in conversation about Saturday's opposition.
Gerrard agreed with the notion that Chelsea might have had their minds on the pursuit of a top-four finish, at home to Newcastle United, last night. "If anything, their situation helps us slightly. We can't do anything in the league and have nothing else going on, so we can solely focus on this game," Gerrard said. But Dalglish, whose selection quandaries include whether to pick Andy Carroll, following his strong display against Chelsea in the Carling Cup, and whether Luis Enrique should return to take a place Jamie Carragher craves, responded: "I wouldn't be disrespectful to say Chelsea think one game is more important than the other."
Dalglish's inquisitors had been told that only questions about the FA Cup final would be welcome, and that there would be no further scrutiny of the Fulham result, nor any further discussion on the appointment of Dalglish's predecessor, Roy Hodgson, to the position of England manager. "I've been on the record waxing lyrical about Roy when I got here and I don't want to change that view."
Neither did Dalglish support the contention that having players with the experience of Gerrard and Carragher in the squad would be critical. "Experience helps but the boys have to help themselves as well. They can't go babysitting everybody," the manager said. "They have played at Wembley twice before [this season] and won a cup competition [against Cardiff City] and a semi-final [against Everton], and some have played there for their countries. They just have to look after themselves, they are big strong boys.
"I don't think it matters when you get to a cup final how many times you have played in one before. It'll be a help that Jamie and Steven are at this club, but on the pitch the players have to look after themselves as much as get a bit of help from each other."
Carragher added: "I don't feel any pressure from the past. You just go out and play. We are aware of the past but we don't think about that going into the game. It's a cup final. We have a great history, we know that, and we want to keep that going. I don't think it will affect me."
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