Spearing: Euro-chase won't shake Reds focus
Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing insists the players will not allow their focus to be distracted by the lure of catching fifth-placed Tottenham. Last weekend's 5-0 home win over Birmingham, coupled with a draw for Spurs, cut the gap to three points and although Harry Redknapp's side have a match in hand they still have to go to Anfield on the penultimate weekend of the season.
Qualifying for Europe again appeared a long way off during former manager Roy Hodgson's short-lived reign, when the club slipped as low as 19th. But Kenny Dalglish's return for a second spell as Reds boss has turned around their fortunes, with the 60-year-old Scot's side taking 28 points out of a possible 42 to rise to sixth.
The confidence surging through the squad is noticeable, but Spearing said all they were concentrating on was Sunday's visit of Newcastle. "We can't look too far ahead. We have Newcastle this weekend and we need to get three points and keep the pressure on Tottenham," said the 22-year-old.
"We can't keep worrying about what other people are doing in the league. We have to keep working. The club seems on a high at the moment and we are keeping it going by putting in good performances. We have been doing a lot of work together and it is starting to pay off in games.
"The confidence which Kenny gives everyone bounces back to him and anyone who comes in (to the team) gels straight away and the training we are doing every day is showing on the pitch. We are working hard for one another and the good thing is as soon as we lose the ball we are fighting to get it back again and it is that desire in the side now that we want to keep going until the end of the season and finish on a high."
Spearing is one of a number of players to have been given a chance by Dalglish when injuries to key squad members threatened to derail their resurgence. Steven Gerrard (groin) and Daniel Agger (knee) were both ruled out of the remainder of the campaign a few weeks ago while defenders Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Fabio Aurelio have all been sidelined by injury.
Spearing and teenage full-backs John Flanagan and Jack Robinson have been the ones to benefit and the Wirral-born midfielder admits it is up to them to seize their opportunity. "For a lot of us, including myself, it is a chance for us to get a step in and show people what we are capable of doing," added Spearing. "For me it is about putting pressure on the likes of Stevie G and for Jack and Flanno it is to put pressure on people like Glen Johnson so you can see there is a fight for places."
Dalglish has always insisted Liverpool's recovery should be taken a match at a time and he will not deviate from that even though the chance of snatching fifth is closer than ever. "We will just look at the next game and see what happens," he said. "It is going to be a difficult game but where we are going to end up at the end of the season I don't know."
The Scot also tried to play down the expectations on Andy Carroll, who missed the win over Birmingham with a knee injury, ahead of the clash with his former club. "We will take an educated opinion on whether he is fit or not," said the Reds boss. "If he is not fit then it will be a disappointment for Andy but he's here for five years and I'm sure he'll play Newcastle more than just this Sunday coming up. His future comes long before a game against Newcastle."