Gerrard dismisses talk of tiredness as greatness awaits

If England are to live out their dreams this summer their midfield dynamo will have to play on into the 12th month of a brutally testing season. Jason Burt reports

After 62 games this season, and with a 63rd in England's friendly tomorrow against Hungary to come, Steven Gerrard brushes aside suggestions that he must, by now, be fatigued. But then he has unfinished business, collectively and personally. His country, Gerrard believes, has not done as well as it should. And neither has he.

"We feel as a squad that we underachieved at Euro 2004," Gerrard said ahead of the Hungary match, which coincides with his 26th birthday.

"With the talent we've got we should have gone further than the quarter-finals and I hope the experience of not exactly failing, but underachieving in Portugal, drives us on this time around. We need to have a successful tournament and go a long way to prove to people that we are a good side and that we have got the talent to do so."

Disappointment gnaws at the midfielder because he feels he is one of those guilty of under-achieving - although he also believes there are mitigating circumstances.

"Maybe I haven't always been able to give my best for England," Gerrard said. "And I think what that's about is being moved around and not knowing where you're going to play. It's difficult at this level to adapt straight away."

Wayne Rooney's injury has opened a debate over whether or not Gerrard, with his adaptability and scoring prowess - 23 goals this season including that spectacular brace in the FA Cup final - should be pushed further forward.

"There's talk of me playing in all kinds of positions," he said. "What I can say is that I'm ready to play in whatever role the manager asks of me, whether that's on the right, the left, off the striker, holding or midfield."

Despite Rooney's absence from England's group games at least, Gerrard is confident. "I would like to think that this is our strongest squad going into a World Cup; it's certainly our most exciting squad," he said.

There is the extra motivation of having been injured four years ago and thus having missed out on events in Japan and South Korea.

"It was one of the lowest points of my career," Gerrard said. "It's as simple as that and it hurt me so much watching the boys out there playing football. Hopefully, this time it will be good memories. I feel as though I've had a successful career up until now, but there's still a lot more to achieve - the Premiership, the World Cup.

"I've still got a load more dreams to fulfil and I'll be giving it everything I've got to make them come true. I want as many medals as possible. I'm not going to settle for what I already have and stand still now."

That hunger helps him dismiss talk of how playing for a 12-month period without rest will take its toll.

"I'm not sure exactly how many games I've played," he said of a season which started last July. "It's been a long, hard season. That's what I want. I want to play as many games as possible because I've missed an awful lot of them throughout my career. I know a lot of people are saying I'm playing a lot of football and wondering whether I'll be feeling tired or not, but I can promise everyone that I feel fine, fresh and ready to go."

The image of Gerrard, suffering badly from cramp, hobbling around the pitch at the Millennium Stadium revealed a player who had given everything for his team's cause.

"I think I played that cup final two or three times before I even went out there," he said. "I think I used up a lot of energy like that beforehand. Cardiff was also a really big pitch, a really tough pitch, and the weather was really hot and it came really close after the last game of the season."

Gerrard was given a week off after the final and didn't travel with the England squad to Portugal. His girlfriend, Alex Curran, had given birth to their second child, and second daughter, Lexie on 9 May.

Gerrard is now ready to go. That could mean, come 9 July and the World Cup final, that he will have played 71 games this season. "There would be nothing better than to bring that cup home," he said.

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