Rarely will you see a player so happy to relinquish the captain's armband – but that is how passionately stand-in skipper Jamie Carragher feels about the importance of Steven Gerrard to Liverpool.
A succession of groin problems have restricted Gerrard to just six Reds appearances since the return of Kenny Dalglish to Anfield in January.
Now in the final stages of his recovery from an infection suffered after an operation undertaken at the end of last season, the 31-year-old is targeting a September return to the first-team – a date that can't come soon enough for Carragher.
"It's a great honour to lead the team out but the fact is I'd prefer not to be doing it because like everyone else I want our captain back," he said. "I speak to Stevie all the time and he's desperate to get back involved. The quicker he is back the better.
"We missed him at the back end of last season and having him back will give everyone a massive boost. It will give a lift to the supporters and to the new players who have come in this summer.
"The new lads will have heard so much about him but they haven't had the chance to train with him yet. To get to play and train with Stevie will be great for them and I'm sure that will help their development.”
Last season saw Dalglish hand first-team debuts to a number of the club's promising young players, having been nurtured through the Liverpool academy. The blend of young, old, and new arrivals on the scene at Anfield, has given plenty of reason for optimism on Merseyside going into 2011-12.
But Carragher, 33, spared a thought for the 'old guard' – himself and Gerrard, who will continue to strive to bring success to Liverpool football club, believing the latter could enjoy another five years at the very top of the game.
"There's still plenty more to come from Steven Gerrard,,” he continued. "He's one of the best, if not THE best player to play in the Premier League over the past decade.
"When Stevie is back playing it will be like we've just signed a great new player. He's still got four or five years ahead of him to play for Liverpool."
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