Carragher backs Gerrard to take captaincy role

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The Independent Online

Jamie Carragher wants his Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard to be the new England captain.

The incoming England manager, Steve McClaren, must decide on a replacement for David Beckham ahead of the build-up to the Euro 2008 qualifiers next season, and the two clear favourites are Gerrard and Chelsea's John Terry.

But Carragher, who along with Gerrard missed crucial shoot-out penalties against Portugal on Saturday, believes his Liverpool captain should edge out Terry for the England armband.

"The captain at international level has to be someone who is one of the first names on the team-sheet, someone who has the respect of the other players and someone who has good leadership qualities," Carragher said. "Stevie and John Terry have got all that so it's going to be a really difficult decision. But, from my own point of view, having played under Stevie at Liverpool and seen how well he captains the side I'd like it to be him.

"When you look back at the way he played in Cardiff in the FA Cup final and in Istanbul in the Champions' League final you'd have to say there can't be too many players around who are more inspirational than him."

Carragher has been the subject of criticism for his performance in the penalty shoot-out from the England fitness coach, Ivan Carminati, who accused him of lacking professionalism in claiming not to realise that he had to wait for the referee's whistle.

But Carragher says he aims to now put his World Cup horror behind him. "What happened in the shoot-out is one of those things that happens in football and you just have to get on with it," he said. "Of course I wish my penalty had gone in and I wish Stevie's and Frank's [Lampard] had and I wish England were still in the tournament. But it didn't turn out like that so you just have to accept it and move on.

"The fact is we didn't go out because we lost on penalties. We went out because we didn't do enough to win the game during the 90 minutes."

His England colleague Gary Neville, meanwhile, has insisted he will never voluntarily retire from international football despite admitting that he may have played in his last World Cup.

The Manchester United right-back, who played only two matches in Germany because of a calf injury, will be 35 when the next finals take place in South Africa in 2010. But Neville, who has represented his country 81 times in the past 11 years, still has the hunger to play at the highest level.

He is an outside contender behind Terry and Gerrard to succeed Beckham, who announced he was stepping down as captain following the quarter-final defeat on penalties against Portugal.

"Perhaps I have played in my last World Cup finals but I have said always I will never retire from international football," he said. "It's not Gary Neville's right to retire from international football. While I'm still playing football for any club then I will be available for my country. That is the way it has always been and always will be with me."

If he can recapture his fitness Neville is probably still the best right-back in the country and Sven Goran Eriksson was forced to use Carragher and Owen Hargreaves to plug the gap while he was injured.

Neville is adamant there is still the possibility of the so-called "golden generation" achieving their ambitions in the future, although by 2010 many of the squad will be in their thirties.

The 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland may represent the last realistic chance for the current squad to lift a trophy before certain players start to go over the hill.

Neville said: "I still think there is a little bit left in the golden generation. I don't think it is the end of them.

"But we all know this World Cup was a big chance for us. It was on European soil and we cruised through to the quarter-final without even having to perform. It is another lost opportunity - one of many because we have got good players.

"We start again with a new manager in four or five weeks' time and a friendly against Greece. We are suffering now but we have to pick ourselves up and go again. You move on. I start pre-season training again on 24 July with United and, I know it may sound wrong, but you have to start thinking about that, your preparation, getting yourself ready to go again.

"It's the English mentality. You pick yourself up and you fight back. You don't give anything away. What else can we do? You can't give in and say 'that's it, we are going to stop playing football'.

"It's a proud football nation. It has suffered more than this and it will suffer again I am sure but we will bounce back and keep striving."

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