Ibrox exit, Liverpool link and Villa aims – Steven Gerrard addresses key issues

19 Th11 2021 | 09:47

Aston Villa have introduced new head coach Steven Gerrard to the media before his first game in charge on Saturday at home against Brighton.

Former Rangers boss Gerrard, 41, faces a tough task as Villa sit 16th in the Premier League table, two points above the relegation zone, after five straight defeats.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key issues covered in the former England and Liverpool captain’s first press conference.

Why quit Rangers after Scottish title triumph?

Steven Gerrard led Rangers to the title last season (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Gerrard said he left Ibrox with a “heavy heart” but with his “head held high” after last season guiding Rangers to Premiership glory for the first time in 10 years and halting Celtic’s quest for a 10th straight league title in the process. But he said the lure of the Premier League and the chance to join “another iconic club” was “an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by”. He also revealed a move south to be closer to his family was another key factor.

Is Gerrard using Villa as a stepping stone?

Steven Gerrard has been tipped to return to Liverpool one day (Peter Byrne/PA)

It has been widely speculated that Gerrard will one day return to his beloved Liverpool as manager, possibly as successor to Jurgen Klopp. But Gerrard forcibly refuted the notion that the Villa job was a stop-gap. “Very unfair,” he said. “You’ll never hear me say it’s a stepping stone. I’m really honoured and proud. I’ll give this job everything it needs to be a success. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having dreams and aspirations.”

What are his short-term and long-term aims?

Gerrard has been tasked with delivering European football by Villa chief executive Christian Purslow but was careful not to set any immediate targets other than to start climbing the Premier League table. “It’s about me putting my stamp on this team alongside my staff and me proving that I can improve Aston Villa as a football club. I can improve their position in the league and we’ve got the FA Cup coming.”

Have Villa taken a risk?

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow is very happy with Steven Gerrard’s appointment (Nick Potts/PA)

Not according to Purslow, who said Gerrard’s appointment marked “a fantastic moment in the club’s history”. Gerrard admitted he had taken a risk in returning to the Premier League as manager with Villa, but that he thrived on such challenges, while Purslow added: “I think Steven’s arrival will reignite the club and push us forward. Playing in Europe is something that is an exciting dream for our fans.”

Is Gerrard expected to make big changes?

Aston Villa splashed out a club-record fee on Emiliano Buendia during the summer (Mike Egerton/PA)

Villa have been among the biggest spenders in the Premier League in recent seasons and fans will be hoping Gerrard can attract some big-name players to the club in January. But the former Liverpool skipper said it was too early to discuss the next transfer window and his squad will be given every chance to prove themselves. “It’s important we analyse the current squad we’ve got,” he said. “We need more training time with the squad, we need more challenges in games and we can pick it up from there.”