Posted on May 25
Steven Gerrard challenged his England team-mates to banish their 2010 World Cup nightmare here on Friday as he prepared to kick off a new era under manager Roy Hodgson.
Gerrard was promoted to the captaincy on the eve of the World Cup two years ago after an injury to Rio Ferdinand ruled the Manchester United defender out of the tournament.
However the 31-year-old Liverpool midfielder presided over a miserable campaign which ended with a humiliating 4-1 drubbing by Germany in the last 16 after a dismal performance in the group phase.
Gerrard, who will win his 91st cap in Saturday's friendly against Norway, said he was determined to avoid a repeat of England's World Cup shambles when the squad head to the European Championships next month.
"It was very difficult out in South Africa because we never performed at a good level," Gerrard told reporters.
"We never reached the level that this team's capable of and that was the frustrating thing. But I think throughout the Euro qualifying campaign we showed we are a good team and we have bounced back.
"I'm hoping we continue that form going into this tournament."
England's chaotic build-up to next month's tournament has left expectations at an all-time low, with most observers believing Gerrard and his team-mates will do well to qualify from a Group D which sees them face France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
However Gerrard said England can take comfort from the against-the-odds Champions League triumphs of Chelsea this season and Liverpool in 2005.
"What I would say is that you don't necessarily have to be the best team in a competitions to win it. Look at Chelsea, look at what we achieved in 2005," Gerrard said.
"Sometimes when there is realism about and there's not too much pressure on the players it can help.
"But all we can do is give it our best shot, work as hard as we can, and try and perform better than we did in South Africa. That's the challenge."
Gerrard is also adamant that the Football Association chose wisely when they appointed Hodgson earlier this month despite a public clamour for Tottenham's Harry Redknapp, saying he had been impressed by the 64-year-old during his ill-fated six-month stint as Liverpool manager.
"I got on fantastically well with him. Roy took the Liverpool job in very difficult circumstances because the majority of our fantastic supporters really wanted Kenny (Dalglish) to be our manager," Gerrard said.
"So from day one Roy had a really tough job. But I can assure everyone he's a really good manager. I've worked with him day in, day out and he's a winner.
"He makes his sides very difficult to beat and I'm really confident he can be successful as England manager."
Gerrard also discounted suggestions of lingering tensions in the squad following the inclusion of John Terry, who was stripped of the captaincy in February following concerns over his upcoming court case on charges of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, the younger brother of Rio. Terry denies the charges.
Asked if there were divisions in the squad, Gerrard replied: "It's false. We're united, we're together, we're all after the same thing.That's to win.
"There's no divides. We'll make sure there's no divides because that's the last thing we need."
He also welcomed the presence of Terry, who had famously threatened to stage a mutiny at the World Cup in an apparent challenge to former manager Fabio Capello.
"John's a fantastic player. And having him about certainly strengthens this squad," Gerrard said.
"For me as captain it's nice to have other leaders about -- Frank Lampard, John Terry, Scott Parker. Players like that are going to help me in my role. It's not just about the captain."