Gerrard can be England's leading man
World Cup 2010: Rustenburg
Fabio Capello calls it "the curse of the captain" - now he must hope the man he is believed to have thought too timid to lead England breaks the spell.
Capello set out a simple line of succession for the captaincy when he appointed John Terry, but the Italian's preferred choice was sacked amid personal problems and his successor Rio Ferdinand's South African World Cup adventure was over before it began.
So Gerrard, third in line even though he was the first captain Capello selected to audition for the job, steps forward with the task of repeating the inspirational leadership he demonstrates at Liverpool for his country.
Frank Lampard, installed as vice-captain after Ferdinand's knee injury forced his departure before the end of England's first training session, gave Gerrard a glowing reference.
He said: "I think he will do the job he does for Liverpool, in which he's been fantastic. It will mean everything to him to captain England at the World Cup. Steven has got that quiet way about him off the pitch, but everybody respects him and he is an inspirational player."
It is Gerrard's "quiet way" that is understood to have caused Capello concern and persuaded him to place the armband elsewhere. Now he has it back by a combination of default and ill-fortune and has been presented with the game's biggest stage to demonstrate he is up to the job.
There have been suggestions Gerrard is something of a reluctant England captain. An introspective individual despite the powerhouse performances that have won silverware for Liverpool almost single-handedly on occasions, Gerrard has often given the impression that he has enough on his plate defining his own role in England's team without carrying the cares of captaincy as well.
He is also still being used in a role not strictly designed to bring out his best, lurking on the left flank with licence to roam. There is a sense that he would prefer either a central midfield role or being dropped in just behind Wayne Rooney - but Capello is clearly reluctant to grant him that wish.
Gerrard insisted recently that there would be no repeat of his miserable Euro 2004 campaign when he fretted in his Portugal hotel room about his Liverpool future as Jose Mourinho attempted to take him to Chelsea.
No distractions was the message - but he has been presented with plenty to occupy his mind should he choose let it wander again.
Gerrard, now 30, arrived in South Africa as manager Rafael Benitez left Liverpool, and as Real Madrid's interest started to gather momentum, with Mourinho once again a central figure.
Spanish newspaper Marca, famed for close connections with the Bernabeu, devoted its front page to Gerrard this week and former Anfield team-mate Xabi Alonso - whose departure bitterly disappointed England's latest captain - rolled out the welcome mat.
Gerrard has insisted all deliberations on his future must wait until after the World Cup, and now he has England's captaincy to crystallise his thoughts.
And, despite many supporters mysteriously believing England might be better off with someone else occupying his place in Capello's side, Gerrard is fully equipped with all the tools to make a success of the job.
No-one can seriously believe Gerrard is anything less than 100% committed to delivering for England. This outstanding player is respected not just by his England team-mates, but around the football world.
He has thrived on responsibility at Liverpool and despite a chequered history as England captain, Capello saw no reason to consider any other members of his squad as replacement for Ferdinand.
England and Capello do not want Gerrard to undergo a transformation into a fist-pumping, patriotic leader of men or issue tub-thumping jingoistic rhetoric - they simply want him to be the world-class player he undoubtedly is and finally shine at a major showpiece.
Injured for the 2002 World Cup in Japan, badly distracted at Euro 2004 and subdued in Germany four years ago, if Gerrard is going to make an indelible mark at international level, it is arguably now or never.
Indeed, he may just flower away from the woes of Liverpool that dragged him down into a decline below his normal standards last season.
Capello can help him cope with any additional pressure he may feel. He has never quite grasped the interest that surrounds the man with the armband in England, believing all his players have leadership responsibilities and the role itself is purely symbolic. He has never bought into the hoopla that surrounds the captaincy.
Terry remains a natural leader on the pitch, and it was Chelsea's captain who made sure he was one of the first to greet Michael Dawson with a warm handshake when he arrived on the margins of England's training session after his arrival in Rustenburg.
So Gerrard should not feel the need to take all of the weight on his shoulders. If he ever needed the perfect platform to show he can be as indispensible for England as he has become for Liverpool, then Ferdinand's misfortune and this South African World Cup have just provided it.