By Dominic Fifield
Steven Gerrard is to miss England’s summer friendly games against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil so that he can undergo surgery on a long-standing shoulder problem.
The Liverpool midfielder will complete the domestic campaign for his club before having keyhole surgery after the final game of the league season, against Queens Park Rangers on 19 May. The operation will sideline him for six to eight weeks over the summer, though Liverpool are confident the 32-year-old will be fit for the start of pre-season back on Merseyside.
The club’s medical staff have put the injury down to wear and tear – Gerrard has played every minute of Liverpool’s Premier League campaign to date – and do not deem it overly serious in the long term, with England instead to suffer the brunt of his absence.
Although the fixtures at Wembley and in Rio de Janeiro on 29 May and 2 June respectively are merely prestigious friendlies, they are an opportunity for Roy Hodgson to work further on combinations within his side after an awkward World Cup qualifying campaign to date. The loss of his captain will damage the manager’s scope to prepare for the critical autumn qualifiers, when England’s destiny will be shaped in key games against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro. It remains to be seen whether another influential midfielder, Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, is declared fit for the summer internationals given the ankle problems he has suffered in his fledgling career to date.