Aston Villa attracted by Steven Gerrard’s courage in taking on Rangers challenge

Gerrard’s first game as Villa boss is at home against Brighton on Saturday.

Mark Walker
Friday 19 November 2021 15:57
Steven Gerrard spent three-and-a-half years as Rangers manager (Jane Barlow/PA)
Steven Gerrard spent three-and-a-half years as Rangers manager (Jane Barlow/PA)

Steven Gerrard’s courage in taking on the Rangers job was the single biggest factor in him being appointed head coach of Aston Villa according to his new employers.

Gerrard, whose first game as Villa boss is at home against Brighton on Saturday, staked his fledgling managerial career on turning Rangers into Scottish champions when he took on the role at Ibrox in 2018.

The former Liverpool captain established Rangers back in Europe before signing a three-and-a-half year contract last week to replace Dean Smith at Villa Park.

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said: “I remember when he took the job at Rangers, nobody, not even the most optimistic Rangers fan, would have anticipated what they were able to achieve so quickly.

“I have a crystal clear memory of that time. Most people who knew him in the game thought it was a crazily risky, dangerous move for a player just getting into management.

“He had a great slot at Liverpool and to leave that was the single most attractive feature of his candidacy.”

Purslow was Liverpool’s managing director for just over a year until 2010 when Gerrard was club captain, but insisted their past working relationship had little bearing when Villa began their search for a new head coach.

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow was managing director of Liverpool for just over a year until 2010 (Victoria Jones/PA)

“That was 10-12 years ago. The personal qualities I saw in him then, no doubt about it, even 12 years later those are central to the person he is,” Purslow said. “Drive, determination, hunger, ultra-professional.

“He just wants to be the best he can possibly be and he gives off that message to everyone around him, which raises standards.

“Yes, it’s helpful to have seen the younger man, football captain version, but that doesn’t get you a job as manager of Aston Villa.

“It’s helpful at the margin, but it doesn’t even get you an interview.”

Gerrard’s decision to leave his role as Liverpool’s Under-18s coach for the Ibrox hot-seat had also impressed Villa owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.

“That shows the person we all know, backing himself, absolutely fearless – that’s one of our core values – and the fact he subsequently delivered a title and regular success in Europe,” Purslow added.

“They are the gravy, but the personal qualities to take that job on really attracted Nassef and Wes, myself and (sporting director) Johan Lange.

“As Johan said earlier, Steven’s performances at interview were outstanding. He was the unanimous choice following that interview process.”

Villa, 16th in the table and two points above the relegation zone, are bidding to halt a five-game losing streak on Saturday in Gerrard’s first Premier League game as manager.

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