Liverpool in dire need of a fit and firing Gerrard

Dalglish knows he is lacking his talisman's goals and creativity – while captain must make a push for the Euros

It should have been the fulfillment of a long coveted wish when Steven Gerrard learned that Kenny Dalglish had been summoned from his cabin on a cruise ship in the Gulf to accept the Liverpool job in the depths of last winter. The Liverpool captain was growing up on Huyton's Bluebell estate when his father climbed the stairs to his room, handed over the vast image of a player and told him: "He's the man. The best player who ever turned out for Liverpool. Get him up on your wall." The picture of Dalglish stayed up there for years.

The experience of playing for the man on the wall has been more complicated, though. Gerrard was 32 minutes into his first game of the Glaswegian's new managerial era when he was dismissed for a challenge on Michael Carrick at Old Trafford in January, and he has featured in only 11 matches for the club since. Surgery to the groin which had plagued him for several years, compounded by an unrelated ankle infection, have contributed to the most miserable 12 months of the 31-year-old's career. Never across the course of a calendar year, since he first broke through in the 1999-2000 season, has Gerrard appeared fewer than 30 times for Liverpool in Premier League competition. This year's tally is a mere 12.

Behind the scenes, in those tense sections of his exchanges with television crews generally consigned to the cutting room floor, Dalglish has been relentlessly dampening down expectations. Only last week, he was privately bemoaning the way that talk of Gerrard's positive training sessions can translate into a "setback" TV story when Gerrard is not subsequently on the teamsheet. Few topics irritate this irascible manager more.

The reason is because Liverpool need Gerrard more than they dare admit. He was the player who plonked himself down next to John W Henry at lunch when the new Americans shipped up at Anfield last year, and who provided the owner's wife, Linda Pizzuti, with her most exhilarating moment as a Liverpool supporter – a front-row directors' box seat for his 14-minute hat-trick against Napoli. But he has not matched that night since and has been absent at a time when the goals he provides have been painfully hard to come by. Even Luis Suarez has been less prolific than Dalglish would like, with 12 goals in his first year at Anfield comparing unfavourably with Emile Heskey's 21, albeit in fewer starts. Of course, the absence for the remainder of this season of the injured Lucas Leiva also quickens the need for a restored Gerrard.

He seems unlikely to be back to the starting line-up before the visit to Manchester City next Tuesday, though to judge from Dalglish's demeanour this week there is uncertainty as to whether he may be relied on as exhaustively as in years past. The West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, talks of how football for most players over the age of 30 is a process of managing pain and, after the injuries Gerrard has had to overcome, Liverpool will be looking anxiously for evidence that his old faculties can be restored. Though the groin surgery was something he had accepted was necessary, the unrelated ankle infection was a source of devastation and bewilderment.

Gerrard simply did not understand how an innocuous cut on the ankle, sustained during training in October, rapidly deteriorated in the 24 hours before the League trip to West Bromwich Albion, which Liverpool won 2-0.

The efforts to ensure full rehabilitation have been painstaking. Gerrard has spent a week in Abu Dhabi at the same facilities of Al Jazira FC where Everton's highly rated Ross Barkley undertook conditioning work in the pre-season, following his desperately bad leg break while playing for England's Under-19s last October. "We will just take it as diligently as we always do. We won't go stupidly throwing him in if he's not ready to last," Dalglish insisted. "We would rather have him until the end of the season than just for one game."

That desire to see him involved throughout the campaign will make Liverpool as anxious as they were in the autumn that they are the player's priority ahead of England, though Gerrard's sense of responsibility to Anfield will be accompanied by a need to get back into Fabio Capello's thoughts. Scott Parker's emergence as the national side's most improved player this year and Jack Wilshere's imminent own return to light training point to a fight ahead for a meaningful role at next summer's European Championships.

Gerrard can be an introspective soul at the best of times and these conflicting responsibilities will be playing on his mind as he seeks to get back to football for good, though sometimes it can be best to strip away the mental dimensions and simply play.

Dalglish's relentless attempts to throw cold water on the Gerrard factor led him to a rhetorical question on Wednesday. "How do we know how different it would have been if Steven had been playing?" he said. "I think Russell Grant is your man."

But the answer was on the pitch, not in the stars. Gerrard had been on the field for 10 seconds of his 20-minute return against Blackburn on Boxing Day before delivering the arcing free-kick which Maxi Rodriguez ought to have converted with the goal at his mercy. For captain, as well as team-mates, it may be a case of getting back into the habit.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?