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May 26, 2012

Gerrard thrilled to lead England

Steven Gerrard feared he may never lead his country again, but says he is relishing the opportunity to captain England at this summer's Euro 2012 tournament.

• Hodgson: Carroll will face Norway
• Brewin: Roy's route to Euro success

Gerrard was overlooked for the armband by former England manager Fabio Capello, as well as interim boss Stuart Pearce. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were preferred to Gerrard, who had to settle for deputising in their absence, including at the 2010 World Cup.

The recent appointment of Roy Hodgson - who worked with Gerrard during his time at Liverpool - signalled the start of new leadership for England, and the midfielder is enjoying the fresh start. Gerrard will lead the side onto the pitch for the first time as permanent skipper in England's friendly against Norway on Saturday.

"It feels like the first time I've been official captain," said Gerrard. "All the other times, I've known the armband was going to go back, either after the tournament or individual games.

"Fabio Capello decided to go with other people - Rio and JT - which was fine because they're fantastic captains. Fabio always had belief in me as a player but it was quite clear he didn't have total belief for me to be the official captain.

"This manager has come in and done that. It's very nice and good for my confidence and belief as well.

"I was disappointed not to skipper against Holland. Stuart Pearce said I wasn't going to be captain. I said: `Okay`, but I was disappointed. It's not easy when you're told you're not going to be captain.

"He just said he wanted to go with someone else, Scott Parker. Scott's a great player who's done a great job, so I accepted him and the first thing I did was go to him and congratulate him.

"But I thought that was it with the captaincy after that. At the time, I thought maybe Stuart Pearce might be the manager at the Euros so I wouldn't be the captain. That's why it was so nice and I enjoyed the phone call I got off Roy Hodgson."

Gerrard is adamant he will use the extra responsibility to his advantage as he looks to lead England through a period of success, starting with the Euros in Poland and the Ukraine.

"You've got to relish it. I'm sitting here as England captain. It's fantastic. It's something I've always dreamed of.

"When the manager phoned me and told me I was over the moon. I have to relish it and not take it as a pressure. I'm an experienced player, I've been in this set-up for a long time, so I feel as if I'm big enough to handle this responsibility," said Gerrard.

Gerrard knows England have seldom performed to their best in major tournaments. But he has urged England to take encouragement from the likes of Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea last weekend in achieving success - in their instance in the Champions League - when not expected.

"We've got a responsibility to improve our level of performance," he said. "If we perform like we did in South Africa, we're going home early. If we want to do well here, and achieve what Liverpool did in 2005 and Chelsea this year, we have to perform better but also do what those sides did well to get to the finals.

"It goes to show in these tournaments, when you know you're not the favourites and there are other top sides about, you need to battle hard and need to go where it hurts to get the big prizes.

"If you think you're going to turn up in these tournaments and come back successful, it doesn't happen like that. I don't think I've ever won a big trophy and it's all been pretty and nice even against sides where we've been massive favourites."

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