STEVEN GERRARD is finally playing with a smile on his face for England thanks to Fabio Capello’s solution to getting the best out of him.
Gerrard previously called his role on the left flank as the “graveyard shift” and by his own estimation has only played in his preferred position, supporting a striker as he does for his club, five times for his country.
Capello started Gerrard out wide against Slovakia and Ukraine in the last week but the 28-year-old also interchanged roles with Wayne Rooney, with both players linking together and influencing the victories in wide and central roles.
“It’s a pleasure to play with Wayne, in this type of form it is easy to link up with him,” Gerrard said. “He gives me good options and I’m enjoying playing with him.
“You don’t get a CV like Fabio Capello’s if you are not clever and know where to play people. He’s a good manager and he seems to have found a solution to getting attacking players in the team and I’m enjoying it.”
The role he and Rooney have requires Frank Lampard to be more defensive than he is for Chelsea.
“It’s all about players pulling in the right direction for the team,” Gerrard said. “Frank has worked very hard and done very well over the last couple of games.”
Gerrard feels there is now more to come from his partnership with Rooney, and he also believes the squad will build on their 100% start to the qualifiers ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“My partnership with Wayne can just get better the more we play in these roles,” he said. “I think the relationship is going to get stronger and hopefully it can be key in the future.’’
Gerrard was impressed by the character of his team-mates in fighting back to earn a late winner against Ukraine after Andriy Shevchenko had levelled at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Players have previously spoken of a fear of failure but Capello has his players brimming with confidence.
“That was the pleasing thing. Eighteen months ago if we had a goal against us we might have gone into our shell and played the final 20 minutes with fear,” said the Liverpool captain.
“Against Ukraine it was positive that there was a good reaction, a lot of character and we felt we deserved the winner in the end.”
Next for England is Kazakhstan and Andorra in June, with Gerrard warning against complacency. Another two wins should put Capello’s men on the brink of winning Group Six.
“It is easy to go into those games with the wrong attitude and just thinking you are going to get the points,” Gerrard said. “It’s not like that at international level.
“You get four or five weeks after those games and it would be a disaster going on holiday thinking about dropping points against sides that you should be getting maximum points against. So it is important that we take maximum points.”
Meanwhile Lampard says Capello is helping England players lose the fear of failure which undermined previous campaigns.
Chelsea midfielder Lampard said: “I think everyone is confident when we go and play for our clubs every week. But there became a period of time when we were not performing for our country as a group and didn’t get the right results.
“Obviously we became less confident in an England shirt. The new manager coming in has helped with that and individuals are starting to get more confident in an England shirt.”
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