SportSoccer

Rodgers - No easy route back for Gerrard

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Gerrard may be bench warming in his final weeks at Liverpool
Gerrard may be bench warming in his final weeks at Liverpool

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is closing in on a return to full fitness, but his manager Brendan Rodgers has warned the Anfield icon that he will not be offered a quick route back into his in-form team.

Gerrard has missed the last six matches with a hamstring injury and, although he has returned to training this week, he will be assessed before a decision can be made on whether he is fit to face Blackburn in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final.

In his absence they have won five times, with Jordan Henderson stepping up to successfully lead the side and the statistics confirming that Liverpool have been a far more prolific scoring team this season when Gerrard is not in their team.

Gerrard's imminent farewell to Liverpool may see Rodgers put under pressure to pick the veteran midfielder, but he doesn't seem ready to bow to those demands.

"There is no-one in the squad who has a God-given right to walk straight into the team," said Rodgers.

"It probably would be (an issue) for other people but certainly not for me and it wouldn't be for Steven.

"He is very much a team player and if he was on the bench because the team was in good form and playing well I think everyone respects that.

"I have shown my time here players who are performing well, irrespective of price or status, they play - simple as that.

"For me the most important thing in the first case is having Steven available. He is an outstanding player still and having him back makes us a better squad.

"He is not fit yet so we just need to get him back and then if that (him sitting on the bench for the final three months of his Liverpool career) was the case you would have to ask Steven (how he feels).

"Let's see how the season pans out and then review it then."

Henderson has assumed captaincy responsibilities in the interim period and his form has seen a marked upturn, with goals in his last two matches, but Rodgers is keen to play down comparisons with Gerrard's possible successor as Liverpool captain.

"Jordan is totally different. Steven is one of the best players of all time in the Premier League and I have said before there is no comparison," he added.

"Jordan is a young guy who is a wonderful talent but a different type of player. Steven is one of the greats of the game, with all respect.

"Someone said he would be irreplaceable but we will find different ways and different types of players but I think you should stop trying to put pressure on a young player like Jordan Henderson.

"Because he takes a corner and Steven Gerrard takes a corner it doesn't mean he is the new Steven Gerrard.

"Because of he shoots from outside the box it doesn't mean he is the new Steven Gerrard. He is Jordan Henderson and he is creating his own career and headlines.

"He is vice-captain and has a wonderful role model in Steven but I would ask every young player to follow Steven Gerard by example because he is an incredible professional and football player.

"His stature as a footballer is certainly growing all the time and that is because of his performance level.

"He assists goals, he scores goals, and for me he is just improving every single day. His tactical understanding of systems is developing and he will go on over the next few years.

"He really is a first-class footballer but I think at a big club he will go on and show what a top player he is."