Kewell admits injury has hampered Anfield career

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The Independent Football

Harry Kewell has warned Liverpool supporters they will have to wait some time before seeing him return to his best form.

Harry Kewell has warned Liverpool supporters they will have to wait some time before seeing him return to his best form.

Kewell, who has struggled with an ankle problem since last Christmas, has rarely shown what he is capable of since moving to Anfield last summer, and he has failed to make a major impression since the club's new manager, Rafael Benitez, arrived before the current campaign began.

The former Leeds forward, who played for his country in their 2-2 draw with Norway at Craven Cottage last night, admitted he was a long way from his peak. "It is going to take a while for me to get back to my best.

"I have been carrying an injury, and even though I have been playing week in, week out, it does play a large part in it.

"I wouldn't say I am back in the big time, but we are working away at Liverpool. It is a long season, and we will take it from there."

Kewell has not lived up to expectations this season - he has still to find the target after 15 games for the Reds. But the 26-year-old insists that Benitez retains full confidence in his ability. "I have spoken to my boss, and we have had some deep conversations and he has told me what I need," Kewell said.

"It is going to take a while, but he believes in me - which is great - and I believe in myself.

"A lot has contributed to my form. As well as carrying an injury, I have been flying back and forth to Australia, but they are all excuses.

"Once you cross the white line, you should be 110 per cent. I wasn't and then my fitness went as well, so I have got to work hard."

Kewell will be hoping his fortunes improve this weekend with Liverpool facing a difficult trip to Middlesbrough. Just days after playing together for the Socceroos, Kewell and the Boro striker Mark Viduka will find themselves on opposing sides at the Riverside Stadium.

Much was made of the pair's allegedly frosty relationship while together at Leeds, but Kewell is full of praise for Viduka's ability. He said: "Mark is a great player to play with because he is so big and strong.

"You can lay any kind of ball into him and then just run off him and you are likely to get a flick off him. I have always enjoyed playing with him."

The Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam has admitted that the speculation surrounding the future of the club's head coach, Steve Wigley, is to blame for the team's poor recent form.

Southampton travel to Norwich this weekend in better spirits following their derby win over Portsmouth which gave Wigley his first League victory in 11 matches since replacing Paul Sturrock.

"We have all felt for the manager lately," said Lundekvam. "I think that, whatever people say, speculation like that is going to have a negative effect on the players.

"He has taken a lot of stick and pressure, and this has been unfair. If there is stick to be handed out, the players should take it, because we are not performing as well as we should.

"The players had a meeting after our 5-2 defeat at Watford in the League Cup. We cleared a few things up and I think we showed a lot of character and determination against Portsmouth."

Southampton's 2-1 success left them two points clear of the bottom three, but they have a realistic hope of taking six points from their next two matches - at winless Norwich and then at home against another promoted team in Crystal Palace.

"I think it was absolutely vital for us to get that first League win under Steve Wigley, and that it came against Portsmouth made it extra special," Lundekvam said.