Gerrard: I'm back - now let's win the Carling Cup

Steven Gerrard threw off his superhero’s cape and revealed he has only 107 steps left to conquer on his comeback.

Liverpool have not been to Wembley since 1996, when their cream FA Cup Final suits alerted the fashion police and they got barged off the catwalk by a Frenchman with an upturned collar.

Gerrard, who emerged from six months of purgatory at Brighton on Wednesday, believes it is high time the Kop returned to their ancestral second home - a stadium once dubbed ‘Anfield South’ - to collect a domestic pot.

The midfielder’s 14-minute run-out on his return from a groin operation was only a bit-part as Liverpool clung on for a 2-1 win, but manager Kenny Dalglish made little effort to disguise his relief at the return of the club’s “talisman.”

With no European football, and with Manchester United already eight points ahead in the title race, the Carling Cup represents Liverpool’s best chance of cracking open the silver polish this season.

And Gerrard, 31, has set his heart on climbing the 107 steps to the Royal Box at Wembley on February 26 to pick up the first tangible dividend on Dalglish’s £100million Kop makeover.

“I’ve had to watch from the sidelines while Kenny has been rebuilding the side and I’ve been really happy with what I’ve seen," he said.

“Since he’s come in there have been a lot of happy faces around the training ground, the supporters are happy as well and 90 per cent of the football has been fantastic.

“Take away the performance at Tottenham and it’s been exactly what we’ve been hoping for - that has made me even more desperate to get back in among the lads.

“It’s been a long time, too long really, but it was fantastic to be out there in the kit again - and it was a nice win as well.

“I’m not the best when I’m out injured and watching games, so it’s been very frustrating. But I’ve tried my best to attend most games, show my support for the lads and try to be an influence.

“It’s nice to see the team progressing well, the signings we’ve made have been good and, from top to bottom, everybody at the club is smiling.

“I thought we were fantastic in the first half at Brighton and could have had the game dead and buried. Credit to Gus Poyet, his team played well and they probably feel hard done-by that they never took us to extra time.

“That wouldn’t have been the end of the world, because I would have got another 30 minutes of match fitness under my belt, but at least we are in the draw for the next round.

“We haven’t been to a major cup final for a long time, so we’ve got to take every cup competition seriously - especially when there is no Europe, which makes it a bit easier to put out stronger sides.

“Kenny has assembled a fantastic squad and we’ve got a couple of players for each position, so even when he mixes it up and rests people, we’ve still got a strong side.

“When you play for Liverpool, it’s all about winning trophies. That’s why we’ve got to take every cup seriously and that was the message from the manager before we beat Brighton.

“And being captain as well, there’s nothing more I want than to go to Wembley with the rest of the lads and lift a cup.”

Gerrard trained on Thursday in the hope of forcing his way into the starting line-up at home to Wolves on Saturday - a fixture that marked the nadir of Roy Hodgson’s unlamented reign last Christmas.

But competition for places has suddenly intensified after Craig Bellamy crowned his second coming at Anfield with a goal on his first start against the Seagulls.

“Craig’s performance was fantastic - that’s why we signed him," added Gerrard. "His pace is always dangerous, it was a great finish for his goal and he was unlucky not to score a worldy when he cracked the bar with a free kick.

“We’re really pleased to have him here and the fans have seen a taste of what he’s going to add to us this season.”

Bellamy’s previous goal for Liverpool came four-and-half years ago, in the Champions League against Barcelona, in the wake of his notorious golf-club attack on team-mate John Arne Riise.

But his enduring quality, and Gerrard’s comeback, have both given the club a lift after damaging Premier League defeats at Stoke and Spurs.

Striker Dirk Kuyt acknowledged: “I think it’s the biggest boost for us to have Stevie back, and the reaction of the crowd said it all. Everyone has waited a long time for his return, and everyone saw the smile on his face when he came off.

“We all know how important Stevie is to the club, on and off the pitch, and it’s good to have Craig back as well. Was his last goal for us really in the Nou Camp?

"It’s like he’s never been away. I think he will have a big future for Liverpool if he keeps playing like this.”



Liverpool have not played at Wembley since May 1996, when Roy Evans’ Spice Boys faced arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

A strong side featuring Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp was beaten 1-0 by a late volley from Eric Cantona, but the day is best remembered for the Reds' pre-match attire.

Fowler said afterwards: “It was David James’ fault we wore white suits. It was his idea. He’s bigger than everyone, so nobody questioned him – and at the time he was an Armani model.”