PREMIER LEAGUE

Gerrard relishing Villa challenge

Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard is the new manager at Aston Villa and is looking forward to a new challenge after three-and-a-half years at Rangers.

0
I like a challenge – Gerrard accepts he is taking a 'risk' by swapping Rangers for Villa

Steven Gerrard acknowledges that he is might be taking a big risk by swapping Rangers for Aston Villa but insists that a new challenge in the Premier League was too big an opportunity for him to turn down. The 41-year-old was confirmed as Dean Smith's successor as Villa manager last Thursday on a reported three-and-a-half-year contract.

Gerrard guided Rangers to a couple of second-place finishes before ending the Glasgow club's 10-year wait for Scottish Premiership title success last season. He departed Ibrox with the Gers four points clear of Celtic in top spot and with their Europa League knockout-stage hopes still in their own hands with two group games to play.

New challenge awaits Gerrard

The Liverpool midfield great is taking on a different challenge in his second senior coaching role, tasked first and foremost with guiding Villa away from the relegation zone. While fully aware of the task on his hands, Gerrard is relishing the opportunity to manage in a league he spent 17 seasons playing in with Liverpool.

"Aston Villa sells itself – an iconic football club," he told VillaTV. "I know it well from the outside and I'm very much excited to get involved inside and start building relationships. I like a challenge. I like a risk. It's something I'm really looking forward to getting into. This club will suit me because I know the fans are very passionate and there's a demand and pressure to win. That's something I've lived with since I was 17. I was first aware of Aston Villa's interest last Wednesday. I had a call from my representation, and when the phone call sunk in, I wanted this to happen very quickly, because first and foremost the opportunity was too big."

Gerrard's record at Rangers

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8%, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020. That compares to a 39.6% win rate for Smith across his 139 Villa matches, but Gerrard admits managing in the English top flight will provide a sterner test.

"I have to respect that the leagues are very different in terms of level, but I've learned a lot over the past three-and-a-half years," he said. "I've lived under that pressure and demand to win. There was a big building job to be done, and I can walk away with my head held high. Going into another league, that's something we'll adapt to. I've played many years in the league, and I've got an experienced group of coaches who are a real rock to me. We'll also use existing staff, so I look forward to building relationships."

Anfield return before Christmas

Gerrard, whose first Villa game is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, faces an emotional return to Anfield on 11 December. The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Jürgen Klopp one day. However, Gerrard's sole focus for now is on new club Villa, who are two points above the relegation zone following a run of five defeats in a row.

"I don't think me or anyone else will be able to control the noise [regarding Liverpool]," he said. "For me that's not important. What's important is the chance to go to Anfield and win. That's the attitude we'll have going into every game. It is what it is. I want to win every game that I play in, now my priority and focus – and everything I will give on a daily basis – will be for Aston Villa. One thing I can guarantee the supporters, the players and the staff here: when I commit to something, I'm all in."