One of the minor themes of the 2012-13 season was the increased success Liverpool's medical team had with their squad. The club brought in a sports psychologist to help the team deal with the mental aspect of their game, and improved individual training regimens tailored to each player's body type and playing style went on to significantly reduce injuries and allow players like Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard to achieve a career high number of matches played in one league season.
For a player of Gerrard's vintage, it added a more positive slant to discussions surrounding how many more seasons the skipper could realistically play for his beloved club. A sensible training plan designed to maximize Gerrard's physical strengths coupled with an equally sensible approach1 to managing the player's minutes in the coming season could make for a successful strategy as he sees out the twilight of his playing career.
But in light of Gerrard's controversial choice to undergo a wee bit of injection in his race to be fit enough to face the Germans, the captain has had to dial down the panic a few notches by suggesting that the physical treatment he's received at club level is not the only thing that has helped keep him more fit than usual in recent seasons.
"I have them [the injections] every couple of years," said Gerrard. "My game-return since I had the first ones a couple of years ago surprised myself really. My game has been really good so I'm hoping I can get the same game-return from this set that I've had.
"I wouldn’t have them if I didn’t feel any benefit from them. The reason I went in for these recently is because I’ve felt so good physically over the last couple of years. I think I proved in the last tournament I was fit and available for all the games in a short space of time so I’m assuming it will be the same in Brazil."
That's probably exactly how science works when it comes to physical fitness, despite the fact that four years is a long time for a player on the wrong side of thirty. If injections are now business as usual for Gerrard, though, then perhaps it is a genuine fire inside England's captain to get those Jerries and seek revenge for what happened in South Africa in 2010. Even if it's only a friendly.
"It shows to every player when you come up against Germany it’s a great opportunity to shine individually and as a team," Gerrard said. "It’s one of them fixtures, you either come off the pitch on an unbelievable high or a terrible low. Very similar to a derby game domestically."
A derby game that the opposition cares far less about than you do, but a derby nonetheless. Here's to an entertaining and injury-free match between old foes and new friends.