'Only a fool' 'Fascinating' - From Carragher to WWE... Reactions & what to make of Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa move 🤷♂️
What does the future hold for Steven Gerrard? Is this a route to the holy grail that is the Liverpool job?
From a decapitation of a cardboard cutout of the Rangers boss (that is, quite frankly, sorely missing a guttural cry of ‘FINISH HIM’ in the background) to Gary Lineker’s positive appraisal, there’s been something of a mixed reaction to Steven Gerrard’s mid-season managerial switch.
The 41-year-old recently swapped the Ibrox Stadium for Villa Park after being courted by the Villans to replace sacked boss, Dean Smith.
Despite having won the Gers their first league title in a decade, following a period of dominance from Glaswegian rivals Celtic in the same amount of time, a number of supporters were keen to vent their fury in whatever way they could at the Scouser.
Invariably, this means foul-mouthed rants on Twitter from faceless entities (shock horror!), though one opted for a rather different approach to his fellow supporters.
Just to clarify, before conclusions are jumped to: that, of course, isn’t Jay Spearing. At the very least, it would be something of a Jekyll and Hyde reaction from the former Liverpool midfielder in light of his recent well-wishes issued on Instagram.
Not all threats of violence against the former Liverpool No.8’s person are serious thankfully, with current WWE superstar and Rangers fan, Drew McIntyre, jokingly warning Gerrard against taking the Aston Villa job.
“I’d love to say we’re doing as well as last year but it’s kind of hard when we didn’t lose a league game last year,” the 36-year-old told Birmingham Live.
“We’ve dropped a game, drawn a couple of games, but we’re still killing it. We’re still ahead of where I thought we would be at this point.
“The only thing I have to say is Gerrard better stick around and not be leaving to Aston Villa or something or I will be showing up at his door.”
Regardless, this isn’t to mock the plight of all Rangers supporters and we can certainly understand why many would be upset to be abandoned by their first title-winning manager in a decade in the middle of a campaign.
Make no mistake: this is a move that personally benefits the manager to the potential detriment of his former club.
However, can Gerrard really be begrudged a move not only to the pinnacle of league football in the English top-flight but also for a project bearing as much potential as Aston Villa?
What has the reaction to the managerial switch been like?
Being such a notable presence across the globe, let alone English football, Steven Gerrard’s decision to jump ship mid-season was always going to attract mass attention (not to mention critique) from commentators and fans alike.
From Liverpool’s perspective, it’s a move that arguably furthers the coach’s career; an interesting prospect considering that Jurgen Klopp’s contract in Merseyside is set to expire in the summer of 2024.
Our old skipper’s terms at Villa Park aren’t quite as fairytale-esque as was initially reported, with the 41-year-old having been handed a three-and-a-half-year deal that will keep him in the West Midlands until a year after the beloved German has hung up his Liverpool cap and handed the reins over.
It does, nonetheless, raise a number of questions about the former England international’s managerial pathway now that he’s back in the Premier League and in more clear sight of the Anfield hierarchy.
Beyond speculation for what the future holds for Gerrard, however, the appointment of the Premier League legend has inspired a rather diverse selection of reactions on the Twittersphere:
What does this all mean for Gerrard’s managerial pathway?
As a coach, Steven Gerrard has been very much motivated by the right opportunity at the right time.
Why else would he have turned down offers to go straight into management following the end of his playing days to take up a role with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and soak up all the knowledge he could from the German during his time with the club’s youth ranks?
When the right opportunity came knocking… Gerrard jumped.
With all due respect to Rangers, it was hardly a gamble of equal risk to Frank Lampard’s decision to take the reins at his former club Chelsea but a risk nonetheless and, crucially, one that paid off.
[Steven Gerrard celebrates securing Rangers’ 55th league title in his third season in charge]
“Had it gone wrong in Scotland, Gerrard - a bit like Frank Lampard now - would have been forced to take time out of the game again and reassess,” Jamie Carragher wrote about the Liverpool Academy graduate in his column for The Telegraph.
“Instead, he delivered the title Rangers craved and did so with a modern, front-footed style of football which mirrors the 4-3-3 which is now commonplace around Europe.
“Given that success, it was inevitable Premier League offers would materialise eventually.
“Just as when he was at Liverpool’s academy, it was always going to be about the one which ticked the most boxes. Aston Villa clearly do. Villa is a club that can give its managers a chance to succeed.”
Aston Villa, as Jamie Carragher later insisted, may not be a stepping stone to the Liverpool job but it’s certainly closer to being a stone’s throw away to what many fairly presume to be the holy grail (as far as an ideal end destination goes) for the defender’s former longtime club teammate than the Rangers job was.
“It is the most exciting Villa appointment in years, and brilliant for the Premier League to have a force of personality and world superstar such as Gerrard on the touchline,” the former centre-half added.
“He will have no inferiority complex taking on the world-renowned coaches, that’s for sure.
“Only a fool would back against Gerrard eventually being seen as likewise as he takes the next major step in his management career.”
A ringing endorsement, however, the contract signed means that Gerrard will still be in a job beyond the date of expiration of Jurgen Klopp’s contract.
Romanticised views of succession aside, there are no guarantees that the club legend will be at the top of the recruitment team’s shortlist by the time the former Borussia Dortmund head coach calls it a day on his Liverpool career.
More to the point, we simply don’t know how Klopp’s potential departure will pan out.
Writing for The Athletic, Simon Hughes previously pondered a possibility many Liverpool fans will likely be more than happy to endorse: couldn’t Jurgen simply take the year’s sabbatical he craves with a view to him returning to the role once managerial batteries are charged?
“The Liverpool fans don’t want me to be the manager of Liverpool Football Club. They want Jurgen Klopp,” Steven Gerrard once spoke of the Liverpool job when prompted. “Is it a dream for me to, one day, be the Liverpool manager? Yes, it is. But not yet.”
The love for our former No.8, our old club captain, a hero of Istanbul, is near overwhelming.
But if push came to shove - regardless of how well Gerrard performs at Villa Park - you’d find few Liverpool fans prepared to dismiss the possibility of an extension on the Jurgen Klopp era in favour of the 41-year-old’s return.
Regardless of what Klopp decides, we must consider questions of whether Gerrard has enough time to prove himself capable of succeeding a managerial behemoth in the former Mainz head coach.
Two-and-a-half years is the magic number. Two-and-a-half years to build Aston Villa back up into a competitive outfit capable of realising the owners’ ambitions of European football.
Most critically of all - two-and-a-half years until Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool contract expires.
To give credit where credit’s due, Dean Smith has hardly left things in a mess for his successor, with the ex-Brentford boss having helped lay down some more than solid foundations for a new coach to come in and exploit.
There will be some immediate challenges for Gerrard to address, of course, prime amongst them being getting the club’s brand spanking new forward line in Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings firing and, in the case of the latter, fit.
But even if the manager makes the role at Villa Park his own and proves to be a success, Gerrard may find himself barred against making another managerial jump by his old club’s move to a more traditional model of succession.
Michael Edwards certainly more than nodded to tradition in his letter to the Liverpool fanbase announcing his upcoming exit from his role as sporting director at the end of the season.
Whilst endorsing his successor, Julian Ward, former loan pathways and football partnerships manager, the transfer guru made an indirect reference to the bootroom era.
“Last year, he [Julian Ward] took on the role of assistant sporting director and over the past 12 months he has been introduced to other facets of the role that are vital to its success,” the former Tottenham employee wrote on the Liverpool website. “Julian’s elevation is wholly in keeping with what I believe to be a key factor of the ‘Liverpool Way’, with promotion from within ensuring expertise, experience and institutional knowledge are cherished in the way that they should be.”
‘Promotion from within’ is a particularly interesting phrase to focus on if we’re assuming Liverpool as a whole will continue to act under the guidance of a model designed to reward current key members of staff.
On that basis, Jurgen Klopp’s current No.2, Pepijn Lijnders would be pretty high up - if not right at the top - on any potential shortlist the recruitment team draw up for the purpose of finding a successor for the German.
Nonetheless, having spent some amount of time in the youth ranks at Liverpool - not to mention being a key former player - one might be inclined to argue that Steven Gerrard would fit within this notion of continuity, of the ‘Liverpool Way’.
Two-and-a-half years is a tight timeframe to work within with the goal of impressing the Liverpool hierarchy in a bid to potentially replace the man who brought the long sought-after title back to Merseyside.
It’ll be a next to impossible task to find another managerial behemoth, who comes close to Klopp’s pedigree, capable of keeping the good times rolling at Anfield.
That being said, the club looks set to have at least a couple of options close at hand to ensure that the demands of the ‘Liverpool Way’ are fulfilled for the foreseeable future.
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