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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 10, 2007

Gerrard: I've never played in a better squad

Steven Gerrard believes the current England squad possesses more quality than any other he has been involved in since making his debut seven years ago.

But the Liverpool midfielder also admits actions speak louder than words and acknowledges England need to stop under-achieving and start progressing beyond the quarter-final stages of major tournaments.

Gerrard's faith may raise a few eyebrows given that qualification for the Euro 2008 finals remains in the balance despite Saturday's encouraging performance against Israel.

Steve McClaren's side face an uphill task to participate in Austria and Switzerland next summer if they fail to triumph against Russia on Wednesday.

But Gerrard has seen enough of the squad now assembled by Steve McClaren to believe they can finally live up to the expectations of the nation.

He believes England now have two or three players fighting for every place which will mean current members of the first XI will have to perform or face being replaced.

Gerrard said: 'If this team clicks, the quality in this squad is probably better than the squads with which I've gone into big tournaments in the past. There is more quality.

'It is cheap talk for me to say it. The most important thing is for the players to do the talking on the pitch.

'But it is obvious when I am training and playing with these players, you can see really good signs and you only have to look around the dressing room to see the quality.

'We know we have under-achieved of late and we need to deliver for this country. With the players we've got now, we've got to make the most of it.

'Is reaching quartr-finals under-achieving? I think with the quality we've got here reaching the quarter-finals is not good enough.

'Of course, we haven't got a god-given right to anything. You've got to go out and earn it. You can't go out with star names onto a pitch and expect to win.

'It is easy to say 'we are good' - but we've got to prove it as players.'

Gerrard said: 'As a team you want players who are out there who can break up the monopoly of who is playing and get into the side.

'A team plays well when there is pressure coming from behind the starting 11 places because you know then you are going to get performances from the players who are starting.

'It is getting to the stage now where there are two or three people fighting for each position so the people starting know they have got to perform to a certain level to stay in the team.

'If you don't do that, someone is going to step into your shoes and take that position off you.

'We have had that at certain times in the past but I think now the situation we are in is a bit more intense because the quality is getting higher and higher.'

What Gerrard believes England need to find is a high consistent level of performance and continue in the same vain as when defeating Israel 3-0 at the weekend.

He said: 'Saturday was a good performance. It is important not to get carried away. It is one good performance. The idea is to find a consistency that will win us more matches in the future against better opposition than Israel.

'We are confident we've got the quality and can achieve that.'

Gerrard has a lot of respect for Russian coach Guus Hiddink despite him questioning whether England have the 'bottle' to win crucial matches.

He said: 'You expect certain managers to say certain things but it is important not to focus on that. The important thing is to focus on what we are about and what our manager is telling us to do.

'I've got a lot of respect for their manager. He gets his teams well organised and we know we are in a really difficult game. We need to be ready and perform better than against Israel.'

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