LONDON, Aug 8, 2011 (AFP) - For the best part of a decade, Steven Gerrard has been the heartbeat and conscience of Liverpool, through good times and bad.
But as the Merseysiders embark on a new era under the returning Kenny Dalglish, it remains to be seen whether Gerrard will be able to lead from the front in his customary "Roy of the Rover" style.
The 31-year-old England international struggled with injuries last season, playing in just 21 of 38 Premier League matches befor his campaign ended in March following groin surgery.
Gerrard, who made his Liverpool debut 13 years ago in 1998, had hoped to return for the start of the new season refreshed and raring to go.
However he is now not expected to play until September as his groin continues to cause problems.
He is determined to make an impact when he does return though.
"I want to come back with a bang, I want to have a big season," Gerrard said.
"It's been non-stop football for me since I started when I was 17. I've never had a period of more than four or five weeks out of the game, so it's been nice to rest mentally.
"You don't want to miss games but when you're watching them it gives you that edge, that buzz to get back.
"I'll come back hungry and hopefully there's a very productive season ahead for me."
Gerrard is also fiercely determined to claw back parity with Manchester United, who edged ahead of Liverpool as the most successful English team last season by winning a record 19th title.
"The challenge for us is to equalise. We've got to make sure we've got a squad capable of going into the season and competing with Manchester United," Gerrard declared.
"It's important this team delivers very soon because we've been a number of seasons without putting a trophy in the cabinet and that's not what Liverpool is about."
Gerrard's early absence may mean that summer signing Jordan Henderson, seen as the long-term replacement for the club captain, may find himself thrust into a central role sooner than anticipated.
Gerrard is confident that Henderson will be able to fill his sizeable boots if required.
"It's a really positive signing - let's hope he is the next Steven Gerrard," Gerrard said when Henderson's signing from Sunderland was announced.
"Liverpool needs a new Steven Gerrard and it will need a new Jamie Carragher. That's what good football clubs do - they replace their best players.
"I saw Jordan at first hand for two or three days with England and he is a good player with energy."
When Gerrard does return, he is likely to find himself playing in a completely new midfield.
As well as Henderson, Liverpool's 100 million pound spending spree has included the recruitment of Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing and Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam.
Adam is convinced that Liverpool will be able to adapt to Gerrard's absence.
"Liverpool have many other talented midfielders. I think the competition for places will be good for the club. I thrive on that type of challenge and I’m sure the other lads will as well," Adam said.
"I want to learn and there are some of the best players in the world at this club, so if I can learn from them I am going to improve as a player.