Gerrard holds the torch for English optimism
An unfamiliar mood has been transmitted through English hearts in the build-up to Euro 2012. Gone is the usual expectation, based on a wealth of big names coming off the backs of successful seasons and in its place a mysterious feeling of uncertainty tinted with tenuous hope.
For much of the past decade, the “golden generation” have inspired English fans with confidence despite never going beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament. Now with the disappointments of previous campaigns still fresh in the memory as well as an uneasy preparation that has seen a late change in management and an increasing injury list, belief of success is hard to justify.
With only days until Roy Hodgson’s men begin their Euro bid against France at the Donbass Arena, it still remains unclear as to who will play in the new manager’s first competitive game. Since his arrival, Hodgson has been of charge of England for two matches, trying a number of options that have included new, fresher faces in replacement of some of the more experienced and established internationals of past tournaments.
One certainty to start in Donetsk, however, is Hodgson’s chosen captain: Steven Gerrard. Argued by many as the golden generation’s finest jewel, the Liverpool skipper will take his place in the centre of midfield, a position he has had limited opportunities in when representing his country.
Lining up alongside Scott Parker in both of England’s warm-up friendlies, Gerrard has looked sharp and was even named Man of the Match against Belgium. With Frank Lampard pulling out through injury and Wayne Rooney suspended for the opening two games, Gerrard has been given a sense of freedom; an opportunity to dominate the midfield.
They say too many cooks spoil the broth and for England with so much quality in their ranks, there has often been a congestion of creative footballers. Now playing with Parker, a tough player with unique battling qualities and a primary thought to keep it simple, The Three Lions will enter a tournament with a balance to their midfield that has never previously been the there.
Gerrard is an all-round midfielder and in the past has often paid for the fact that he has added qualities to his game, being forced out wide to accommodate other midfielders that only feel comfortable in the middle. For this, England have suffered as it has meant they have missed the 32-year-old’s presence in the centre where he has influenced some of the biggest games in domestic football.
Now as Hodgson makes the final preparations for Euro 2012, England will finally enter a major tournament with their most gifted footballer playing in his correct position. There may be some reasons for English supporters to be doubtful over their chances in Poland and Ukraine but the prospect of Steven Gerrard pulling the strings in the middle is certainly a catalyst for optimism.