Gerrard back at practice after assault charge

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard returned to training Wednesday and received the full support of manager Rafa Benitez, who spoke to the midfielder about his assault charges following a bar brawl.

Gerrard is to appear in court in three weeks and faces a potential five-year prison sentence.

Liverpool is pursuing its first league title in 19 years, holding a three-point lead in the Premier League. The club’s next game is at Preston in the FA Cup, although Benitez could rest Gerrard against the lower-league opponent.

Benitez said the England star is “focused solely on his football”

“Steven is our captain and a key player for us, but more than this, I know him as a nice person,” the manager added. “I sat down with him this morning and had a very good talk with him about the situation and I was also able to speak at length with our club lawyer.

“Steven explained to me what had happened and I told him he has my full support and backing, along with everyone else at the football club.”

Benitez returned to the practice site for the first time since surgery to remove kidney stones more than two weeks ago. He is confident Gerrard will remain a vital part of the team.

“We’ve worked very hard to get into the position we’re in going through to the New Year and all of us are determined to keep that progress going,” he said.

The Professional Footballers’ Association also backed Gerrard.

“I was concerned when I heard about the case as I have known Steven Gerrard a long time,” PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said. “I don’t know the full details, but as the players’ union we would want to be supportive of him.”

Gerrard has a court hearing Jan. 23 with John Doran and Ian Smith. The two are friends from the area of Liverpool where Gerrard grew up and were charged with the same offenses. Merseyside Police released three other men on bail pending further inquiries.

Like the rest of the squad, the 28-year-old Gerrard had not been due at practice until Wednesday. He scored twice in a 5-1 rout of Newcastle on Sunday.

After the game, Gerrard joined friends for a celebration in the seaside resort of Southport that resulted in the brawl at the Lounge Inn. The bar’s 34-year-old disc jockey, Marcus McGee, was hospitalized after losing a tooth and cutting his forehead.

Former Liverpool striker Kenny Dalglish said he was with Gerrard shortly before the fight.

“There had been no indication of anything. Steve and the lads were having a really good time and everyone was happy,” Dalglish said. “Now at this time he needs a lot of people around him to support him, and he could not be at a better football club for that.”

Dalglish was manager during the last league triumph in 1990.

“The Liverpool fans will support him tremendously well,” he said. “He’s a really strong character and I’m sure it won’t affect his performance.”
Gerrard back at practice after assault charge Reviewed by admin Ucop on 6:28 PM Rating: 5

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