Steven Gerrard: Why Aston Villa are getting more than just passion in its new boss

'I was hoping that question was not going to come up in this press conference', Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard tells ITV News Central Reporter Mark Kielesz-Levine

It didn't take long for Steven Gerrard to apologise to Aston Villa supporters...

Ok, so it was tongue in cheek but the former Liverpool captain was also making a serious point.

I asked him during his first press conference about the fact he had scored against Villa more times than anyone else he faced.

If you know anything about Gerrard's career, you'll know how interesting that stat is now he has ended up managing the club. 

Smiling, he told me he hoped that question wouldn't come up.

The answer that followed however was, as you'd expect, honest and packed with power- much like his long range efforts used to be. 

"Now I'm on their side", he said.

Gerrard scored 186 goals for Liverpool. Credit: PA

Referring of course to the home support whilst confessing he used to enjoy playing at Villa Park.

There is an important point here and one that is an answer to 'what kind of Head Coach are Aston Villa getting?'. 

As a player he relished big occasions and playing against big teams, pitting himself against the best.

His passion smoked off him it was that raw. Sometimes it got the better of him, like it did against Manchester United once after coming on at half time, only to be sent off seconds later.

But what Aston Villa do have is a boss that will not shirk from responsibility, that will attack his role and drag his players kicking and screaming like he used to in his playing days. 

Gerrard's Liverpool often didn't know when they were beaten even when time was ticking and with the odds stacked against.

From the 'Miracle of Istanbul' to the 'Gerrard Final' in the FA Cup against West Ham in 2006,  these aren't just great Liverpool moments, they are great footballing moments.

Aston Villa will hope that fervour and relentlessness is a hallmark of a Villians side in desperate need of inspiration.

Steven Gerrard is the new boss of Aston Villa Football Club Credit: PA

But it's not just 'character' the club is getting. When he was appointed Rangers Manager in 2018, his remit was clear - end Celtic's dominance of the Scottish Premiership, who were closing in on a record ten titles in a row.

Arguments can be made that Celtic were in relative decline (though they still achieved a historic and unprecedented quadruple treble from 2016-2020) or that the Scottish Premiership is a soft touch.

But the fact remains that Gerrard got Rangers fans the prize they wanted the most, a Scottish Premiership title that left their arch rivals stuck on nine in a row.

Gerrard did this by moulding the team in his own image and Gers dominated almost every team they played.

When they won the League last season, they went unbeaten. A fine achievement wherever you ply your trade.

Contrary to perhaps what most think and Steven's links with Chief Executive Christian Purslow, who was Managing Director at Liverpool, we now know more about the selection process that brought the former England playmaker to Villa Park.

Gerrard was on a list of about 20 and there was an approach to his representatives. From then it happened pretty quickly and his head had been turned.

But it wasn't a sure thing.

A five hour interview/chat took place where by all accounts, club officials were blown away by Gerrard and they had their man. 

Steven Gerrard took up his first managerial role at Rangers Credit: PA

But let's allow us to have a reality check about the size of the task at Villa. One of only a handful of British clubs to win the European Cup (to match Gerrard's playing record), fans have long hoped for those glory days to return.

What they have experienced since is Cup wins and the odd foray into Europe's second tier competition. Whenever a Premier League season has promised much with a blistering start, they have fallen away before Auld Langs Syne has been sung.

Yet there is a romance about one of the founder members of both the Football League and Premier Division.

The stadium is historic, the trophy cabinet is full of past glories and names like Daley, Withe, Morley, Yorke and Spink et al all roll off the tongue. The question is, what do fans want and expect?

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates his goal during the FA Cup final against West Ham at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

First of all, to never be relegated again. Their demise to the Championship had been coming but it was still a shock when they went down in 2016 having played in every Premier League season since its inception.

Gerrard touched on it in his press conference- that Europe has to be the long term aim for the club. But first things first. They are fifth bottom and to many that's a relegation fight.

And so Gerrard's first jobs are to steady the ship, build on Dean Smith's foundation and start to get points on the board.

They play Brighton, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Leicester and Liverpool- all clubs who have had good starts or who have wonderful talent on board.

It certainly won't be easy, but Gerrard was never one to take the easy option.