I’m not prepared to risk aneurysm by going into too much detail about England’s rudderless outing against the French last night, but it’s fairly safe to assume that there was one salient development that caught most Liverpool fans collective attention – and you can pretty much rest assured that it wasn’t the steady, assured performance of mooted January target Yann M’Vila in Les Bleus‘ rejuvenated midfield.
Cometh the 85th minute, cometh the almost inevitable injury.
As the match entered it’s final asthmatic death throes, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was suddenly left prostrate on the churned Wembley turf after twanging a hamstring during a slightly awkward-looking sliding tackle on substitute Alou Diarra – an injury that he later summed up with a brief ‘it’s not good’ as he departed the stadium with a distinct limp.
Before the game had ended, prominent members of Liverpool’s medical staff had taken to the internet to voice their consternation, with the club’s head of fitness and conditioning Darren Burgess branding the England management as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘amateurish’ on his personal Twitter account:
“Unbelievable from all associated with England and English FA with regard to SG’s injury. Completely ignored agreement and past history.
Completely amateurish and now we pay for their incompetence. Absolutely disgraceful.”
Burgess’ anger was soon echoed by Liverpool physio Chris Morgan, who also tweeted:
“Stevie getting injured…more evidence if it was needed of why I hate internationals.”
Both sets of posts were deleted by midnight at the club’s behest, but England manager Fabio Capello still found time to rise to the bait, revealing that Gerrard was initially supposed to play for no more than an hour, but was forced to prolong his involvement in the tie after both Rio Ferdinand and the utterly anonymous Gareth Barry were withdrawn (ironically, through injury) at half-time:
“We spoke with Steve and said he would play one hour but, after Barry’s injury we had problems. That was the reason he stayed on the pitch.
If it’s possible, the players will play the time we agreed with the club. But Barry was injured so we needed someone senior on the pitch.
We are upset about what happened to Steve, of course. He has a problem and we will have to wait for the scan.
Liverpool asked that he can play one hour if it’s possible. They can’t decide how long a player plays with the national team. If it’s possible, he’d have played an hour.
I understand why they’re upset, and I’m also upset. The problem is that, when you play this game on Wednesday after a lot of Premier League, Europa League or Champions League games, it’s possible there might be an injury for a player.”
Capello latterly implied that the injuries sustained by Ferdinand (tightness in a leg muscle) and Barry (a bruise on his ankle) were not as serious as Gerrard’s but, of course, the obvious limitations placed on clairvoyance by the concept of linear time have served to highlight the folly of the veteran Italian’s decision to keep the Liverpool skipper on the field.
Isn’t perfect, 20-20 hindsight a wonderfully beneficial attribute?
Both Gerrard and Fernando Torres (who failed to start in Spain’s 4-0 defeat to Iberian rivals Portugal in Lisbon last night, having strained his ankle ligaments in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke City) will now undergo scans at Liverpool’s Melwood training complex today to ascertain their respective chances of taking to the field against Premier League stragglers West Ham this weekend.
Whilst we’re on the subject of squad omissions, it looks like manager Roy Hodgson will also have to do without the services of Dirk Kuyt (who’s troublesome ankle injury flared up again recently), Joe Cole (yet to fully recover from a hamstring pull) and Martin Skrtel (who is struggling with a jarred knee and ankle).
Judging by previous precedents, Gerrard’s hamstring injury will probably rule him out for anything up to and including a month, with a ‘six-to-eight week layoff’ (containing some tough Premier and Europa League ties) being rumoured by some of the more pessimistic arms of the local press.
With Liverpool currently treading Premier League water, languishing – as they are – in 11th place, and reeling after seeing their mini-revival blunted by Stoke last weekend, it’s becoming increasingly hard to envisage them salvaging anything from 2010/11 – especially without the often anabolic inspiration that their erstwhile captain constantly delivers to the ailing club’s mainline artery.
As Hodgson said himself just a fortnight ago, after a rousing second-half Gerrard hat-trick pulled Liverpool out of the mire against Napoli:
“If we are going to do well this season we need [Gerrard and Torres] firing on all cylinders, we need Gerrard’s control of the midfield and Torres’ goals.”
With the persistent short-comings of the large majority of Hodgson’s squad now set to come to the forefront once again in the wake of losing Gerrard for the immediate future, it’s becoming increasingly hard to argue with that particular train of thought.