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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 30, 2009

Gerrard expects to get even better next season

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is as "hungry and ambitious'' as ever - vowing to make sure he will once again be in contention for Footballer of the Year at the end of next season.

The England midfielder, who turned 29 on Saturday, was honoured at a gala dinner in London on Friday night by the Football Writers' Association after he topped the poll of journalists ahead of Manchester United duo Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney to win the prestigious accolade.

Gerrard scored 24 goals, 16 of which came in the Premier League as he led the Reds' challenge to eventual champions United.

Although Liverpool were unable to sustain their title drive, Gerrard pledged to continuing working towards making the Anfield club the best around once more.

"The coaches at Liverpool and England are always driving me on, trying to improve me as a player. I am 29 on Saturday and I still feel I can get better,'' he said.

"I am still learning every single day in training, working on parts of my game, am still very hungry and ambitious. There is still a lot to achieve for me personally, for Liverpool and England, so hopefully next year is going to be a lot bigger for me trophy wise.''

Gerrard added: "The night has blew me away to be honest, I did not realise it was such a big event with so many people here. I would love nothing better than to come back here and share this evening with you again, so I will certainly try my best to be here next year.''

However, the Reds captain was quick to pay tribute to all the people who had helped him earn such an accolade.

"I would not be standing here without my family, my wife and a few close friends are here tonight, and I have to say a big thank you to them,'' he said. "Also my club manager, Rafael Benitez, who has a lot of belief in me.

"He has pushed me further forwards into a role I am absolutely loving at the moment - every time I go out, I feel so confident. It is great to be here to receive an individual award, but without my team-mates, I would not be able to be here.

"They have been fantastic this season and I am proud to be the captain of such a great team. Although this is an individual award, I would much rather be in a London hotel now preparing with my team-mates for the FA Cup final.

"Now, however, I believe we are moving forwards and are capable of challenging for major honours.''

Gerrard insists the best is yet to come. The toast to the FWA was made by England manager Fabio Capello.

The Italian coach paid tribute to Gerrard, who is set to play an integral role in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra.

Capello said: "Steve, you have played a fantastic season, and scored a lot of goals. Now, please, just two more to help us towards South Africa.''

Gerrard pledged to help lead the side towards the finals next summer.

He said: "The new manager has come in and changed things. I can honestly say it is a good time to be an England player. I have got a lot of belief in the England manager and his coaching staff.

"I think it is going to be an exciting year and hopefully we can get [World Cup] qualification sorted as quickly as possible. Then hopefully we can do better than we have done in previous years for England.''

Chairman of the FWA, Steve Bates, chief football writer for The People, paid tribute to the 2009 Footballer of The Year, an award which has been running since 1948.

"Steven is without doubt an outstanding player of his generation and an inspiration to his club Liverpool and a prized asset of England manager Fabio Capello,'' he said.

"It speaks volumes that Steven beat off competition from five of Manchester United's big names, following their season of fine achievement, to be named by our members as Footballer of the Year - and deservedly so.''

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