• Premier League

Rodgers hails 'inspirational' Gerrard

ESPN staff
March 31, 2013
Steven Gerrard scored from the spot to give Liverpool the lead over Aston Villa © Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers hailed Steven Gerrard for a match-winning performance as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-1, and revealed his captain cut short his summer holiday last year to welcome him to Anfield.

Liverpool manager Rodgers said Gerrard, who has not missed a minute of Premier League football this season, had an injection in his heel to allow him to play at Villa Park.

The England international scored a penalty in Liverpool's victory and cleared off his own line before Rodgers, who wants to extend the 32-year-old's contract, paid a fulsome tribute to him, tipping him to play on for several seasons to come.

"He can play on into his late 30s," Rodgers said. "He is 32, he is England captain and he wants to improve. He is a real influential player for us and will be for a number of years. He's a remarkable man. Look at his fitness level, and his running ability. He has been like that the majority of the season.

"When I first got appointed at Liverpool, he cut short his holiday to fly back and come and see me to welcome me to the club and said him and Carra [Jamie Carragher] would be 150% behind me. Since that day, they have been 200% behind me.

"He is a real inspirational man, a top, top player with his hunger and desire for Liverpool to succeed. I can't speak highly enough of him. To work with the man is huge and as a captain to a manager, he has been phenomenal to me."

Gerrard and Jordan Henderson scored in Liverpool's second-half comeback as, having trailed 1-0 to Christian Benteke's goal, they recovered to take all three points.

And Rodgers praised Gerrard for the way he has led a young team. "He has taken a real leadership role within the group," he added. "There were moments within the second half when he was organising the team. He has taken on board the responsibility of being vocal and the on-field leader."

However, he revealed that Gerrard could have missed the match because of his heel problem, explaining: "He was in a bit of pain and struggling to get a boot on. It was nothing major but many other players might not have played."

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