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By ESPN Staff

Rafa backing Gerrard as he returns to training

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has given his support to Steven Gerrard after the midfielder returned to training after being charged with assault and affray following an incident in a bar in Southport earlier this week.

The 28-year-old faces a maximum five-year jail term if convicted after being accused of assaulting businessman and part-time DJ Marcus McGee, 34, who was injured during a fight at the Lounge Inn.

Reds skipper Gerrard will attend North Sefton Magistrates' Court in Southport on January 23 but he has been given the full backing of the Anfield hierarchy, with Benitez the latest to give the club captain his support.

The Spaniard, who returned to Melwood yesterday for the first time since undergoing surgery on a kidney stone problem a fortnight ago, told the club's official website, ''Steven is our captain and a key player for us, but more than this, I know him as a nice person.

''I sat down with him yesterday 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.

''He's trained with the other lads after a couple of days off for the squad and is keen now to focus solely on his football.

''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.

''We'll do whatever we can to support Steven in the weeks ahead, but we're now concentrating on our preparation for the FA Cup game at Preston this weekend.''

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) have also offered their help to the England midfielder.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor told PA Sport: ''We have a watching brief on this and have offered any help we can.

''I was concerned when I heard about the case as I have known Steven Gerrard a long time.

''I don't know the full details but as the players' union we would want to be supportive of him.''

Gerrard returned to training yesterday with little fanfare at the Melwood training ground.

The England international arrived at the ground in the suburb of West Derby in his black Range Rover Sport to be greeted by a few fans who turned out despite the freezing temperatures.

Gerrard was charged with two other men following a fight at the Merseyside bar in the early hours of Monday.

Mr McGee, of Southport, allegedly lost a tooth and needed stitches to a face cut.

Gerrard, of Formby, Merseyside, will go before magistrates with John Doran, 29, and Ian Gerard Smith, 19, both of Huyton.

They are also facing counts of assault and affray.


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