Gerrard has left Rangers to join Villa Park on a three-and-a-half-year deal, with the Midlands club 16th in the Premier League following five straight defeats that led to Dean Smith’s dismissal. Gerrard, like Brendan Rodgers before him, appears to have had little hesitation in accepting an offer from a Midlands club with ambitions rather than a Champions League qualifier. Realistically, even after winning the Scottish league title, that is likely to be the biggest offer. With difficult fixtures ahead, beginning with a home match against Brighton on Saturday, the former Liverpool midfielder has no time to waste.
On the day he was introduced as Aston Villa’s new Head Coach, he made his commitment to the club clear in a message to Villa supporters, which was, and I quote, “On his message to supporters: “Be prepared to get behind us. I’ve played here on many occasions and the atmosphere’s been top. They really get behind the team and give them a huge lift, and I’ve felt that. It’s been tough to play against this team and this support. It’s a fresh start and I hope that Villa Park is rocking and roaring at the weekend. Myself, my staff and the players need to thrive off it and go and give them a performance to be proud of. There’s a motto at the club, ‘Be Prepared’, and we certainly will be.”
The question that now arises is, what could be considered a realistic goal for Gerrard’s time at Villa Park? The club itself is no match for the Top 6 clubs that have dominated English football for many years. In addition, Villa Park said a tearful farewell to one of their most prolific prodigies at the start of a season when Grealish was sold to Manchester City for a fee in excess of a hundred million Euros. Any attempts by the club to fill the void left by his absence have been largely ineffective, and as things stand, they may have to make do with the current roster until the end of the season.
As a result, in order to outline the goals Gerrard must achieve, one must first define the reason for his appointment, which is to rebuild the club’s internal workings from the ground up. To establish a new system of play, a new system of administration for players and backroom staff, and to ensure that a smooth mechanism is put in place to help the club achieve both immediate and long-term goals. To that end, Gerrard was able to retain several of the people he worked with while at Rangers, including Gary McAllister, a former Aston Villa assistant manager, and Michael Beale as his assistant head coaches.
But, with Villa, can he win the Premier League? You must say unlikely. Can he make the Champions League? Again, it’s unlikely. That means Gerrard will be confronted with a hostile environment. Beyond the obvious four of Chelsea, Liverpool, City, and United, Villa are likely to be one of six to eight clubs with realistic expectations of being regular European qualifiers and occasionally breaking into the Champions League. That means that at least three or four of them will be very disappointed each season.
This may not need to be stated, but Gerrard may just have to survive a gruelling relegation battle before he can think of other goals. With Burnley starting to get results that match their performances and Newcastle’s lift-off on the horizon, Gerrard may just have to survive a gruelling relegation battle before he can think of other aims.
At last, all I can say is, “Welcome back to the Premier League, Stevie G.”