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fully focused New Premier League boss Steven Gerrard not using Aston Villa gig as a ‘stepping stone' to Anfield

Ambitious Liverpool legend is ‘all in’ with plans at his new club

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Steven Gerrard poses for a photograph after a press conference to unveil him as Aston Villa's new manager. Photo: Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Steven Gerrard poses for a photograph after a press conference to unveil him as Aston Villa's new manager. Photo: Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Steven Gerrard poses for a photograph after a press conference to unveil him as Aston Villa's new manager. Photo: Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Steven Gerrard angrily dismissed the theory that managing Aston Villa was a “stepping stone” towards an emotional Liverpool return as he was unveiled at Villa Park yesterday.

The former England midfielder outlined his fierce determination to succeed in the Premier League with one of English football’s “iconic clubs”.

His long association with Liverpool, where he made more than 500 appearances, will never be forgotten and the hysteria around his return to Anfield with his new side on December 11 is likely to be suffocating.

But Gerrard is already frustrated with the narrative surrounding his former club and believes Villa, the former European Cup winners, can never be viewed as simply another stage in his managerial journey.

He was interviewed for five hours by Villa’s hierarchy to emerge as their No 1 choice, signing a contract worth £5m (€6m) a year.

“It’s very unfair to describe this club as a stepping stone, and you’ll never hear me say that,” he said. “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. Liverpool have a world-class coach and if he was to sign a lifetime deal, I would be very happy for them and him.

“Everyone knows what Liverpool means to me, but I’m all in with Aston Villa. I’m as ambitious as anyone, I have confidence and belief in myself and the staff and this group of players. I have confidence that I’ll get the right support at the right time to help move this team forward and grow and strive to be better.”

Villa underlined their commitment by giving Gerrard a three-and-a-half-year contract, in what is his first managerial post in the Premier League. He began his managerial career with Rangers in 2018 and led them to their first Scottish league title in 10 years last season.

Gerrard (41) takes charge of his first game against Brighton tomorrow and is the latest addition to an all-star list of Premier League managers that includes Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel, Antonio Conte and Brendan Rodgers.

“Facing those managers is something that I am very much looking forward to,” he said. “I always like to challenge myself, I always like to compete against the best.

“I am going to have to be on top of my game from a personal point of view, so are my staff, as a group of players we are going to raise our game. That is the only way up the table. I am really excited to be in this league, and really looking forward to competing against the best.”

Gerrard disclosed that he did receive a message from Klopp shortly after his appointment, while he also spoke warmly of the influence on his career by Gerard Houllier, the former Liverpool and Villa manager who died last December.

“I’m sure Gerard is looking down very proud. I’ll be forever in debt of what he did for me,” Gerrard said. “He really changed me as a person, he helped me a lot as a player and really improved my game intelligence and what it takes to stay at the top level.

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“He went out of his way to talk to my parents, to see what I was eating and how I was getting on. I used to lean on him for advice. And his advice to me was always, ‘Go and be the best version of yourself and you won’t go too far wrong’.”

Gerrard will demand similar standards from his new squad, who have lost five games in a row to leave Villa only two points above the relegation zone.

Targets are higher, with his predecessor Dean Smith given over £300m to spend on players, while ambitious owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens are seeking an eventual return to European competition.

“Be prepared” is one of the Aston Villa slogans and once Gerrard sat down with the club hierarchy, it soon became inevitable he would become the new head coach.

In a five-hour meeting, he detailed the strengths and weaknesses of every first-team player, while explaining the philosophy behind his possession-based style of play and how he would introduce it into training sessions.

Gerrard also made a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation at the top-secret meeting in London, in front of Villa’s chief executive Christian Purslow and sporting director Johan Lange.

“It was an outstanding interview and left us in no doubt that we were on with the right man,” Purslow said. “From my perspective, we were blown away with the level of preparation, the thoughtfulness and the clarity around a pretty detailed blueprint. We believe the sky is the limit.”

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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