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Thu 28 Feb 2008 03:04 AM

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Gerrard voices Reds pain over League flop

England midfielder reveals dismay over having to battle for fourth place.

Not even a sixth European Cup will make up for the disappointment of Liverpool's failure to mount a serious challenge in this season's Premier League title race, Reds captain Steven Gerrard has admitted.

In a candid interview, the England midfielder has revealed the depth of his dismay that, having started the campaign with such high hopes, Liverpool now find themselves in a battle for fourth place with the likes of Everton and Aston Villa.

"If you asked most of our fans, they would rather see the title than the European Cup at Anfield," Gerrard said. "We've not won it in a long, long time.

"Looking at the league table hurts. This time last year we were third and Arsenal were fourth, and that is the way the season ended. It hurts to see where Arsenal are now".

Gerrard recognises that an on-form Everton and a revitalised Villa will push Liverpool hard in the race for fourth place but he refuses to accept it will be a significant achievement if they are held off.

"I don't think that the fans would accept fourth as an accomplishment and for me it's not nearly good enough," Gerrard told LFC magazine.

"We need to improve dramatically and even if we do finish fourth, it doesn't mean we have had a good season”.

Gerrard added: "In the position we find ourselves now, fourth is the least that is acceptable. But we have bigger ambitions than that.

"The only way we can fulfil those ambitions is in the Champions League. And I am not going to pretend that even winning that trophy - and we are a long way away from it at the moment - will make up for the disappointment of the league campaign.

"I'm pretty gutted every time I look at the table and see the gap between us and Arsenal at the top, and even the gap between us and second and third.

"We believed we had the players to challenge for the title, and we wanted that one more than any other trophy available to us. I still believe we have the squad to be a hell of a lot more competitive than we are right now.

"We've got the stadium, the fans, the manager and the players to compete for the Premier League. But we have no chance of doing that if we are always well out of it by the first week in January".

While accepting that the players must take primary responsibility for under-achieving, Gerrard acknowledged that the steady drip of speculation, rumour and uncertainty over the ownership of the club and the future of manager Rafael Benitez had not helped the cause this season.

"It's sad so much of the club's business has been conducted in public," he said. "The club I have grown up supporting always did its business behind closed doors, and that is what we have to get back to.

"It's been a damaging situation for every single person involved with the club, fans, players, bosses, owners, from top to bottom".

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