Sven Goran Eriksson must carry through his promise to consider using Steven Gerrard's attacking prowess at the World Cup, according to the former England captain and Manchester City manager, Stuart Pearce.
The Liverpool captain has mostly been used in a holding midfield role by the Swede, who also has to shoehorn Frank Lampard and David Beckham into his midfield. But such is the 25-year-old's influence in the opposition half, as he demonstrated with two goals and a virtuoso performance in the FA Cup final victory over West Ham, Eriksson has now admitted he may use Gerrard as a second striker should Wayne Rooney remain sidelined by his foot injury.
For Pearce, who played in the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy, making the most of Gerrard's attacking instincts is essential if England are to succeed in Germany. He said: "He should play anywhere he wants to play. He is such a key player for us. If you sit him in front of the back four in the holding role you are not getting the best out of him.
"With Stevie's shooting ability, which he demonstrated in the Cup final, he needs to be in a more advanced position. Anywhere around 35 yards out is fine for him."
Martin Peters, the goalscoring midfield hero of the 1966 World Cup win, is keen for the problem of who plays where in midfield to be sorted out as soon as possible - and he criticised Eriksson for not having made up his mind earlier. He said: "For me, the three people who could win it for England are the triangle of Lampard and Gerrard in the middle and Rooney in front. Now we may have lost Rooney, for a period anyway, but I still feel Gerrard and Lampard have got to play together. People say they can't play together but they have got to learn to do it. That's why you have to have friendlies. The friendlies have been outrageous. Alf Ramsey played the team he wanted to play in the finals. He didn't take half off at half-time. Friendlies should be played with the first team.
"The players should have played together for enough time by now, or been around together. That's what they need to win the World Cup."
Peters is not the first member of the 1966 side to criticise Eriksson, who will step down once the finals are over. But Pearce believed that was unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the nation's chances, having helped England to the semi-finals in 1990 under similar circumstances. He said: "Sven is in a similar position to Bobby Robson was in Italia 90. A lot of people were questioning his credentials - unfairly at times - as he was stepping down afterwards. In many ways the pressure is off him. He can make any selections without any fear of upsetting players."
Meanwhile, Michael Owen has backed teenager Theo Walcott to make a similar impact on the World Cup as he himself did eight years ago. Arsenal's 17-year-old was Eriksson's surprise inclusion in the squad and despite not having played a first-team match for the Gunners since his January transfer Owen has no doubts about his quality.
"In terms of being picked for the squad, there are similarities between what happened to me in 98 and what's happening with Theo. He looks like I felt when I was a newcomer into the squad - shy, nervous and whatever.
"I haven't seen too much of him but he looks sharp and lively. Obviously, everyone is going to welcome him. He won't have any nerves any more and can do well. Even in training, the difference over a couple of days was noticeable. You can see him coming out of his shell. I was like that, Wayne Rooney was too."Reuse content