Benitez call offers full backing for Gerrard

Liverpool manager makes personal call to reassure beleaguered captain
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The Independent Football

Steven Gerrard is expected back in training with Liverpool today but has already been offered personal reassurances by manager Rafael Benitez despite being charged with assault and affray after a nightclub brawl.

Gerrard and Benitez spoke briefly by telephone yesterday morning and, though Liverpool were keen to avoid any impression that they are pre-judging legal proceedings, the knowledge that the club captain will not face orders to explain himself in the manager's office at Melwood will come as a major boost to a player who spent yesterday at his home in Formby, coming to terms with what had unfolded at a Southport restaurant-bar in the early hours of Monday morning.

Benitez contacted Gerrard from his own home, where he is recovering from kidney stones surgery, and sanctioned Liverpool's early and unequivocal pledge of support for their captain. "He has been an outstanding servant to Liverpool for the last 10 years and the club will give him all the support he needs at this time," a statement read.

It is understood that one of those Gerrard might be able to call on, should he choose when the case comes to court, is the former Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish, who lives in Southport. Gerrard apparently encountered Dalglish and his wife Marina at the Lounge Inn 15 minutes before the fracas occurred there and the three are understood to have had a calm discussion about Mrs Dalglish's breast cancer charity.

Gerrard was not in breach of a curfew when he headed off for an evening out in his favoured evening location of Southport after flying home from the 5-1 victory at Newcastle. The players had been granted Monday and yesterday off and if, as had always seemed possible, Gerrard misses Saturday's FA Cup third round tie with Preston, he could have assumed it would be 13 days until his next competitive match.

Only if Gerrard is adjudged to have played an active part in any attack is a jail sentence a realistic prospect for an individual with no previous convictions – despite yesterday's internet talk of five-year jail terms, the maximum tariff for the alleged offence in question.

The Football Association has rejected suggestions that it might already be taking an active interest. It will reserve any judgement until the outcome of a trial. That goes for Liverpool, too, though the club were taking what comfort they could from the photographs of Gerrard taken throughout the evening and the 28-year-old's decision to buy a stranger a birthday bottle of champagne – proof, the club hopes, that Gerrard acquitted himself sensibly.

The Gerrard camp said he was anxious to get back to training, having spent yesterday with his wife, Alex Curren, and their children Lilly-Ella and Lexie. His long stint in the cells at Southport police station was attributable to the fact that interviews did not begin until 2.30pm on Tuesday, concluding three hours later.

The 28-year-old, along with two men from his home district of Huyton, will answer assault and affray charges before North Sefton magistrates in Southport on 23 January, four days before the Merseyside derby. A further two men were released on police bail pending further inquiries, along with the Accrington Stanley winger Bobby Grant, 18, from Litherland.

* Jordan Robertson, 20, the Sheffield United striker currently on loan to Southampton, was arrested in connection with a fatal motorway crash on Christmas Day. Robertson was arrested by Leicestershire police on suspicion of dangerous driving following a collision on the M1 near Lutterworth and was later bailed.

On the web: Fans' views

"What was he doing out at 2.30 in the morning? He should be home in bed. No doubt the press will use it to try to derail Liverpool's run."

Liveforthereds, This Is Anfield

"[There] must [have] been CCTV in the bar, so I'm sure it will all be cleared up. I'm sure we'll be reading about Mr McGee's life story in the tabloids soon enough."

west_london_red, redandwhitekop

"I'm disappointed Gerrard would allow himself to give the media an opportunity to spice up the story. As a public figure, every action that you do is exaggerated 10 times, so hopefully he can learn from it."

Zen, This Is Anfield

"Will everyone give the lad a break? He has probably done nothing wrong. The only reason it has come to this is because someone can smell money. He is innocent until proven otherwise, ie 23 January when he appears in court."

Tedthered, redandwhitekop

"Regardless of anything, I back Gerrard. He will never walk alone at a time like this. Let's hope that the next game at Anfield will have banners that show our support."

RedWolf, This Is Anfield

"Stevie is a model professional and I am sure when he is on the pitch he will produce the goods like he always does. Let's just enjoy being top of the league at New Year and hopefully we can stay there until the end."

Fordy, redandwhitekop

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