Gerrard expects Cleverley to prosper
9:12am Sunday 9th September 2012 in © Press Association 2014
England skipper Steven Gerrard is predicting "a fantastic future" for Tom Cleverley, who confirmed his promise with another encouraging performance in the 5-0 win against Moldova.
The Manchester United player operated effectively behind main central striker Jermain Defoe in the World Cup qualifier in Chisinau. It helped England to compensate for the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney as goals from Frank Lampard (two), Defoe, Leighton Baines and James Milner ensured an easy win for Roy Hodgson's side.
Gerrard said: "Tom is going to be a good player. He is only a young boy. Games like that in Moldova will be fantastic experience for him. He is playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe and he has broken into the England team so he has got a fantastic future. He keeps learning the game, keeps trying to improve, he is going to be a top player."
When asked if Cleverley could fill the role on Rooney's return, Gerrard said: "We will have to wait and see but he is doing a good job. He's played there twice now, against Italy and against Moldova, and he has done himself no harm at all.
"He can also play as a midfielder as well. It's important when you are young to play in a couple of different positions. It helps you get into starting elevens and he can do that."
Hodgson has shown himself unafraid to play youngsters like Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Gerrard believes the senior players have a key role to play in their development.
He said: "The important thing with a football team is to get the right blend of youth and experience. I don't think it would be fair if you put 11 kids out in games like in Moldova. The older lads have got a lot of helping to do for these young lads.
"But it showed in Moldova that if you get the right blend of youth and experience, you can win football matches and that's what it is all about."
Gerrard knows England will face a sterner test when they take on Ukraine at Wembley on Tuesday.
He said: "Tuesday, with all due respect to Moldova, is going to be a lot bigger test for us. Ukraine showed in the Euros that they are a good team. If you stand off them, they can play a bit. But we are at home, have got our support behind us, and we want six points out of these two games. If we perform, and improve a bit from against Moldova, we can get that."