Gerrard: how England can get the best out of me

Liverpool's driving force urges Eriksson to play him in his strongest position
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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson has two friendlies, a B international and 34 days to plot a solution for the probable loss to his World Cup plans of Wayne Rooney. But the message of England's Steven Gerrard is: "Play me to my strengths and let me at the opposition."

Gerrard was as downhearted as anyone by the metatarsal fracture suffered by his fellow Merseysider, but he will know that Rooney's misfortune has also opened up opportunities for Eriksson to restructure his attacking forces. Gerrard, who missed the last World Cup because of injury, said: "I was thinking about it the other day. I've got 40 caps and I've only played in my strongest position [attacking midfield] for England for 45 minutes." The Liverpool captain has often been asked to occupy a more defensive role, to accommodate Frank Lampard, and recognises his versatility may have worked against him. Rooney's absence, though, could give him the chance to play upfield, behind Michael Owen (if fit) or Peter Crouch.

"Certain people have criticised me at international level, saying I haven't reproduced my Liverpool form, but the reason I'm playing so well for my club is because I'm playing in my favourite role. I have this belief: if he's playing in his strongest position, Steven Gerrard will play his best football."

Gerrard, often deployed on the right by Rafa Benitez, added: "I wouldn't say frustrating's the right word. Obviously, Frank's doing a fantastic job. But it's meant that my England position's been changed virtually every time. That's not to say I can't do a job in other positions. But against Uruguay [when Lampard was injured], I got 45 minutes in my favourite role, and I enjoyed it."