Steven Gerrard returns to Premier League with unfinished business | Steven gerrard

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SGerrard was asked if he had returned to a more brutal Premier League than the one he left and his response, offered through the upward curve of a smile, betrayed old injuries. “I played in a really tough league,” he said. “I worked extremely hard to win this competition for 17, 18 years and I never made it so I am fully aware of the difficulty: the individual duels, the rivalry, the teams. This league has it all, it has it all.

Winning him as manager would reduce, to a greater or lesser extent, the itch that remained woefully elusive for Gerrard at Liverpool. That’s not a realistic goal for Aston Villa at this point, but, when it was unveiled, none of the hierarchies present were of the opinion that they were limiting or exaggerating expectations. The closest anyone has come to setting a goal has been when Gerrard, reflecting on the respectable Europa League performances he has overseen at Rangers, envisioned the prospect of a goalless Thursday night. “I will miss it because I think every player, manager and fan wants to be in Europe,” he said. “It’s the dream and the long-term goal here. We will try to provide this as quickly as possible.

Reaching it this season may suggest Villa has hired an alchemist, although the table remains compact enough that a modest winning streak could see them rise as quickly as they’ve fallen in Dean Smith’s final days. In 56 minutes of conversation, Gerrard said all the right things: he praised his predecessor and made upbeat, albeit abstract, promises about the ‘energetic and exciting’ football culture and brand that he he will breathe, while skillfully tackling an Anfield-related event. bouncer or two. It was a statesman’s bow, of steel but sometimes guarded; Gerrard has an aura that you think is very useful to him and his CEO Christian Purslow was keen to showcase the virtues that led the former Liverpool captain to Villa Park.

Purslow sat to Gerrard’s left and at one point detailed how he was “blown away by the level of preparation, thoughtfulness, clarity” his new recruit brought to a five-minute interview. hours for the post. The joke said that by the time Gerrard had finished his case everyone was starving. It was quite clear that the two men felt that the integrity of the process, which saw a list of 20 candidates reduced to four, deserved to be highlighted: Purslow was Liverpool’s general manager from June 2009 to October 2010 and the one of the temptations among those who thought Smith had been treated harshly was to suggest that the kingmaker had taken the first opportunity to appoint a former companion.

Steven Gerrard has promised to entertain and excite Holte End fans. Photograph: Aston Villa / Aston Villa FC / Getty Images

“I think people think Christian and I are best friends and we go to the movies together, but I hadn’t seen him in a long time,” Gerrard said. “I knew I would have to tick a lot of boxes, I knew it wouldn’t just be given to me, I had to prove that I was the number one candidate for the job.”

Past knowledge was, Purslow stressed, purely a matter of margin: a fortunate fact that eliminated the awkwardness of the early icebreakers but offered no head start. Given that judging a manager by his record in Scotland can be a precarious matter, it was enlightening to learn more about Villa’s work: Purslow dwelled on Gerrard’s year in charge of the Under-18s and under-19s of Liverpool, suggesting that this experience will dovetail with a young setup who has started to generate exceptional talents such as Jacob Ramsey and Carney Chukwuemeka.

Maintaining this production line will be a key part of Gerrard’s mandate. “The message to the whole academy, especially the guys who are older and on the sidelines of the first team, is that we will be watching every move they make on and off the pitch,” he said. “The ball is in their court to prove that they are capable of being a regular on this team.

On the recent form of their senior colleagues, this should be an achievable goal. Ultimately, however, Gerrard will need his first-team players to perform. Smith was fired for failing to provide “continuous improvement,” Purslow explained upon leaving; the concept came up several times on Thursday and it is not easy. If all 20 Premier League clubs had unveiled new managers simultaneously, they would demand something similar: in an overcrowded field of powers with similar resources where the perception of regression is rarely an option, Gerrard is tasked with making Villa different and better. that, the vast majority.

“The challenge is to find a level of consistency over a period of time where you don’t yo-yo in the league,” he said. “This club will always strive to improve in every way possible. That’s the right thing to do in this league.

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“But you also have to realize that this is the best league in the world, and why is it the best league in the world? It’s because the best teams are in there, the best coaches. We all accept that this is a tough and challenging league and we need to act on it, and that’s what turns me on rather than scare me.

If this fearlessness is passed on to his lodge, Gerrard can find his way to completing unfinished business, whether at Villa or ultimately elsewhere, becomes considerably easier.

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