Gerrard reveals England's inspiration
World Cup 2010: Rustenburg
England will call on inspiration from near and far to get their World Cup off to a winning start when they face the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday.
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, in possession of the captain's armband after Rio Ferdinand's injury, revealed the twin forces he hopes will spur Fabio Capello's squad to success in South Africa.
One is close to England's current home, Wayne Rooney, while the other came from afar in the shape of a moving "good luck" message from troops serving in Afghanistan.
For a low-key personality often portrayed as a reluctant England captain, Gerrard emphasised his pride at reclaming the honour, albeit at the expense of the unfortunate Ferdinand.
If this was someone who accepts the responsibility of England captaincy with a heavy heart, he did a magnificent job of disguising it when he spoke at "Camp Capello" on Thursday.
And he started by revealing how a message from the troops - delivered via David Beckham who recently visited Camp Bastion - had touched England's squad and added another incentive to their pursuit of glory.
Gerrard, who has also been getting in the mood for combat by watching DVDs of the Lions recent rugby union tour of South Africa, said: "David was sent a DVD by the guys out in Afghanistan wishing the lads all the best. It was very moving and touching. It finally hit home that the World Cup is around the corner and the support back home is massive.
"They were passionate guys showing all the different teams they supported back home in England. We have supported them and they are supporting us. We realise as players what they are doing out there for the country. It puts everything into perspective and drives us on.
"It definitely made me realise how lucky I am to be leading an England side out in the World Cup in the next couple of days."
Gerrard, after a season of domestic disappointment at Anfield, is hoping the world stage will provide the greatest consolation of all as he firmly put all inquiries about his Liverpool future to bed until this campaign is concluded.
And as a man who had an FA Cup final christened in his honour after Liverpool beat West Ham United in 2006, Gerrard believes England possess a rare talent that can put his signature all over this World Cup.
Brazil's Pele made the 1970 Mexico World Cup his own, while Argentina's Diego Maradona achieved the same feat, with much England pain along the way, in the same country 16 years later.
Now Gerrard, as South Africa continues to whip itself into a frenzy ahead of the tournament's opening game between Bafana Bafana and Mexico on Friday, believes the time is right for Rooney to add his name to that illustrious list.
Rooney's darker elements have been probed since his loss of control against Platinum Stars on Monday, but Gerrard believes the overall package paraded by his fellow Scouser, albeit originally from the royal blue half of Merseyside, can stamp his name indelibly across this South African World Cup.
Asked whether he had the talent to follow in the footsteps of Pele and Maradona at previous World Cups, Gerrard was unhesitating as he said: "I think he is in a position to do that. His confidence is sky high. He is physically in great shape and the stage is set for him to deliver."
Gerrard is close to Rooney off the pitch and believes this will help him bring the best out of the talismanic figure who carries the bulk of England's World Cup hopes.
"He is a fantastic age and has come off the back of an unbelievable season, probably his best," said Gerrard. "He is in the category of the top players at this World Cup. I'm just delighted he's English."
Gerrard added: "We have a good understanding on the pitch. We are also quite close off it. I know what Wayne's about. I know his upbringing and his background and that certainly helps."
After taking on the role of captain at such a late stage, Gerrard insists he will be his own man but will have back up from coach Fabio Capello, former skipper John Terry and England coach Stuart Pearce, who listened on intently as he delivered the rallying calls.
Gerrard has never enjoyed the full World Cup experience, He missed out through injury in 2002 and was part of a poor England campaign in Germany four years later. It remains a frustration that an undoubted world-class talent at club level has never quite transferred itself to the great showpiece.
If it is Rooney's time, it could also be said it is Gerrard's and his body language and steely gaze carried all the hallmarks of a player who knows this might be his final opportunity.
He said: "It is a great honour, a superb honour, to be captain of England at the World Cup. I will respect that and to be leader of the pack is an unbelievable honour."
England will have their concluding training session before their World Cup starts at the stadium in Rustenburg on Friday evening before the long wait for serious action is over at last.
Capello told the BBC that he knows the England team that will face the Americans - with Gerrard at its head. The captain's key phrase, repeated constantly, was: "It's time to deliver." The time finally comes on Saturday.