Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  

Gerrard seeks Cup tonic

Steven Gerrard claims lifting the FA Cup for Liverpool on Saturday will give him the perfect platform for the World Cup after his marathon season at Anfield.

Gerrard, 25, will play the 59th game of his campaign when favourites Liverpool face Alan Pardew's West Ham United at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

The England midfielder played his first game of the season way back on July 13 when Liverpool faced Welsh club TNS in a Champions League first round qualifier.

Fears over his ability to survive such a gruelling campaign in World Cup year have proved unfounded, however, and Gerrard admits he has even surprised himself by playing so many games.

Gerrard said: "Maybe I am surprised that I am going so well after so many games because people were concerned at the beginning of the season about how many games I would be playing.

"But I always knew that if I got my body right, and everyone knows how many injuries I have had in my career, I would be fine. It has surprised me a little, but I have been looking after myself on and off the pitch and I can't wait for the final.

"If we get a good result against West Ham it will get me in the right frame of mind for the World Cup. But I would not be doing my job if I was thinking about the World Cup this weekend and I just have to give 100 percent in the cup final and then I can turn to what I hope will be an exciting summer."

Gerrard played in the 2001 Liverpool team that beat Arsenal in the first FA Cup Final staged at the Millennium Stadium.

But after lifting the Champions League trophy last May, he knows how special it is to captain a winning side in a major final.

He said: "The Cup final means a lot to me. A few people have tried to discredit the competition, but I am not one of them.

"I know what it feels like to win an FA Cup, it was one of the highlights of my career and I want to experience that again. I have always dreamed of playing in cup finals, but I will be captain this time and that makes it very special to me.

"I have won the Cup in Cardiff before, but this will be my first time as skipper and we need to do the job properly.

"We have beaten fantastic sides like Manchester United and Chelsea to get to the final, but it is always on your mind that after going on such a successful run you might not get over that last hurdle.

"West Ham are in the way and they have some fantastic players who will play the game of their lives, so we have got to be on our toes and play to the level we know we can."

Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia believes lifting the FA Cup will ensure a successful season for the Merseysiders, despite their failure to retain the Champions League.

He said: "This time last year we were preparing for the Champions League final and it is important for the future of the club that we play in such games.

"But we have to keep going and keep looking to achieve things at this level. The FA Cup would be a real bonus. It was a pity to go out of the Champions League, but you must realise you can't win it every season."