Steven Gerrard has spoken of how he is bursting with pride as he prepares to captain England on the occasion of his 100th cap for his country, but that his international career will always be tinged with regret.
The Liverpool midfielder joins an illustrious group of five players to have reached the milestone including English legends Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton but he says that his international career will always be tinged with regret at what he perceives as the ‘Golden Generation’s’ failure to fulfil its potential.
“We under-achieved. That team should certainly have got to a semi-final. That group of players should have done better. That’s certainly a regret now.”
“I’m not usually a player who shows his emotions but this is special for me. I don’t think it will really sink in until I retire,” he said at a press conference ahead of England’s qualifier against Sweden at Wembley.
“It’s difficult to put into words. The hairs will be standing up on the back of my neck. It’s a real honour, a privilege. When I’m an old man my family, my kids and their kids, will see my name on that list now. That’s what I really like about it.”
Tellingly Gerrard doesn’t rate his achievement anywhere close to the famous exploits of Moore, Charlton and the rest of the World Cup winning team of 1966.
“In football, the hero and legend status is given out far too easily for my liking. As far as playing for England goes, there are only 11 real heroes over history. The rest haven’t really delivered, for me.”
Gerrard first captained England in a friendly against Sweden eight years ago and still has the armband he wore that night. The opportunity to earn his 100th almost didn’t come. He revealed that he had come close to retiring from international football following further disappointment at Euro 2012 but that Rio is his final destination in an England shirt.
“When you are at my age and you have had another setback at England level it crosses your mind. I’m being honest and, yes, it’s crossed my mind on a couple of occasions. It’s just that being the captain and the buzz you get playing for England outweighs the thoughts about knocking it on the head.”