Soccer  

Steven Gerrard: Aston Villa move down to Premier League return and being closer to family

Steven Gerrard
Gerrard has won four of his six games in charge of Villa

Steven Gerrard has only been at Aston Villa for five weeks but has already made an impact at the club.

Villa have made an impressive start under the former England midfielder, picking up four wins from his first six games in charge, with the two losses coming against Premier League champions Manchester City and his old club Liverpool.

There had been suggestions Gerrard left Rangers and took the Villa job in November to help him move on to bigger ambitions in his career.

But he told BBC Radio 5 Live he could not turn down the opportunity to join “a gigantic club” as it offered a return to the Premier League and being closer to family.

“It is a fantastic club and I am very privileged and honoured to be in this position,” said Gerrard.

“I understand that there will be noise and opinion on the outside and people will put two and two together to come up with whatever they want to but for me it is about the now. I am happy here, I want to be here and I decided to take this challenge on.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down for two main reasons: one, being back in the Premier League with the size of the club, to challenge myself against the best and working with elite footballers. And, from a geographical point of view, to be close to my kids. My son is four and a half and I was missing for three and a half of those years.

“In any walk of life, to not have one night in your own bed is not the ideal or perfect situation. We decide what career paths and decisions we want to make and we have to go and do that.

“I committed everything I had to the Rangers project and we did a very good job up there but for me it was about the next challenge, the opportunity to come back into the Premier League.

“I am very happy because I see more of my family, my family might not be as happy as me seeing more of me, but I am good.”

‘Things can be exciting here for sure’

Steven Gerrard
Villa paid Rangers a compensation fee of £4.5m to take the manager’s job

Villa sacked Dean Smith in November following a run of five successive league defeats that left them 17th in the table, two points above the relegation zone.

Boyhood Villa fan Smith was in charge for three years, guiding the club to promotion from the Championship, narrowly staying in the top flight the following season and achieving an 11th-placed finish last term.

Results started to dip this season after selling star player Jack Grealish to Man City for £100m in the summer, but Gerrard’s flying start has taken the club up to 10th.

Gerrard said: “The Villa fans want to see a group of players and a squad that goes out and represents them in the best possible way. There is a lot of non-negotiables that the fans want to see and that is ethic, commitment, desire and people really going the extra mile to empty the tank.

“This is very much a case of, can we strive to be better? Can we strive to be among the elite further down the line? Can we move this club forward rather than take steps back? That will be the challenge moving forward.

“At the moment, we have seen enough in terms of what we have in the door that we can move it forward and if we recruit right and get the right support to the current players, things can be exciting here for sure.”

‘World is his oyster’ for Ramsey

Jacob Ramsey
Ramsey has started five of Gerrard’s six games in charge

Villa are missing a host of players because of Covid and injuries but midfielder Jacob Ramsey is poised to start once more against Burnley on Saturday.

The 20-year-old scored in the 2-0 victory over Norwich in the previous game and has started five of Gerrard’s six games in charge.

Gerrard said: “I am certainly going to be a manager that wants to lean on the academy and give people a pathway and opportunity. They have got to play their part, they have to be good enough, they have to contribute when they come in and grasp that opportunity.

“Jacob Ramsey’s situation is a little different because his chance and his moment came under Dean Smith and Dean did a fantastic job there to give him that opportunity. But his level is so high on a daily basis and you cannot ignore that.

“He is someone whose world is their oyster. He can go as far as he wants to go and has impressed us an awful lot. He is very consistent and mature for someone at such a young age.

“In terms of the rest around the first-team group, we have put the ball in their court and said you will get opportunities if you show consistency in training and show a level that is better than someone who has your shirt. It is no science, it is nothing to make complicated.”

How to follow Aston Villa on the BBC bannerAston Villa banner footer