Thu, Jan 01, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Rafa Benitez gives Gerrard support after brawl charge

AFP , LONDON

Alex Curran, left, arrives home with her husband, Steven Gerrard, right, and an unidentified woman on Tuesday at their home in Liverpool, England. Liverpool FC threw its full support behind captain Gerrard after he was charged with assault and affray in connection with a brawl at a bar.

PHOTO: AP

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was due back at training yesterday after being charged over an alleged assault at a bar — reassured at being given manager Rafa Benitez’s total support.

The England international, hailed as one of the world’s best midfielders, was charged on Tuesday alongside two friends following a brawl in the seaside resort of Southport on Merseyside.

The whole squad had been given two days off following Sunday’s impressive 5-1 win at Newcastle.

If convicted of assault and affray, Gerrard faces a maximum five-year prison sentence.

But Benitez, who is still recovering from surgery to remove kidney stones two weeks ago, is adamant that his talismanic player will remain a vital part of the club’s push for a first English league title since 1990.

“Steven has been an outstanding servant to Liverpool for the last 10 years and the club will give him all the support he needs at this time,” Liverpool said in a statement.

The 28-year-old Gerrard will be in contention for Saturday’s FA Cup match at Preston after being released on bail to appear in court on Jan. 23.

Former Reds striker Kenny Dalglish, who was manager during the last league triumph in 1990, believes that Gerrard will not be distracted on the pitch by his legal plight.

“The Liverpool fans will support him tremendously well,” Dalglish said. “He’s a really strong character and I’m sure it won’t affect his performance.”

“At the end of the day, he will wish, like everybody else, it had never happened, but it has happened. He’ll deal with it superbly well and he’ll get fantastic support from everyone round about him,” he said.

The English Football Association said Gerrard remains eligible to make his 71st England appearance in the Feb. 11 friendly against Spain in Seville.

In the altercation at the Lounge Inn, the bar’s 34-year-old disc jockey, Marcus McGee, lost a tooth and was cut on his forehead. He was hospitalized before being released.

John Doran, 29, and Ian Smith, 19, who are Gerrard’s friends from the Huyton area of Liverpool where Gerrard grew up, were charged with the same offenses by Merseyside Police.

Gerrard had been celebrating Sunday’s victory over Newcastle in which he scored twice as Liverpool went three points clear atop the Premier League.

Benitez sees Gerrard as the key ingredient in bringing trophies to Anfield.

“He is still young, 28 for a player is the best age and I think that he will not lose his power and he will not lose his quality,” Benitez said earlier this season.

“He is now one of the big names of world football and 10 years in the same club and scoring [109] goals for a midfielder is amazing,” he said.

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