Benitez backs captain as Gerrard returns to training

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has expressed his full support for Steven Gerrard in the wake of the midfielder being charged with assault and affray following an incident in a bar in Southport earlier this week.

The 28-year-old faces a maximum five-year jail term if convicted after being accused of assaulting businessman and part-time DJ Marcus McGee, 34, who was injured during a fight at the Lounge Inn.

Reds skipper Gerrard will attend North Sefton Magistrates' Court in Southport on 23 January but he has been given the full backing of the Anfield hierarchy, with Benitez the latest to give a public expression of his support.

The Spaniard, who returned to Melwood today for the first time since undergoing surgery on a kidney stone problem a fortnight ago, told the club's official website, www.liverpoolfc.tv: "Steven is our captain and a key player for us, but more than this, I know him as a nice person.

"I sat down with him this morning and had a very good talk with him about the situation and I was also able to speak at length with our club lawyer.

"Steven explained to me what had happened and I told him he has my full support and backing, along with everyone else at the football club.

"He's trained with the other lads this morning after a couple of days off for the squad and is keen now to focus solely on his football.

"We've worked very hard to get into the position we're in going through to the new year and all of us are determined to keep that progress going.

"We'll do whatever we can to support Steven in the weeks ahead, but we're now concentrating on our preparation for the FA Cup game at Preston this weekend."

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) have also offered their help to the England midfielder.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor told PA Sport: "We have a watching brief on this and have offered any help we can.

"I was concerned when I heard about the case as I have known Steven Gerrard a long time.

"I don't know the full details but as the players' union we would want to be supportive of him."

Gerrard returned to training today with little fanfare at the Melwood training ground.

The England international arrived at the ground in the suburb of West Derby in his black Range Rover Sport at 10.05am.

He was greeted by a few fans who turned out despite the freezing temperatures to see him drive enter.

He has so far remained silent about the controversy and his wife Alex Curran, 26, last night said they would not be commenting.

Gerrard was charged with two other men following a fight at the Merseyside bar in the early hours of Monday.

The father-of-two was celebrating his team's win over Newcastle when trouble began.

He was arrested and interviewed by detectives who later charged the international, who was awarded an MBE in the last New Year honours.

Mr McGee, of Southport, allegedly lost a tooth and needed stitches to a face cut.

In the hours after the fracas, blood and broken glass were visible on the floor of the club.

Gerrard, of Formby, Merseyside, will go before magistrates with John Doran, 29, and Ian Gerard Smith, 19, both of Huyton.

They are also facing counts of assault and affray.

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