Premier League: Gerrard should not be in a rush to return to Liverpool

Even though he has just been named the new Aston Villa manager, speculation already started on when Steven Gerrard will return to his boyhood club of Liverpool. But John Roycroft points out the pitfalls any rushed return may await Gerrard should he ever replace Jurgen Klopp at Anfield 
Premier League: Gerrard should not be in a rush to return to Liverpool

Aston Villa announced Steven Gerrard as their new head coach. Immediately starting speculation on when the former Liverpool captain would return to Anfield. Picture:Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

THE players of the Premier League return to their clubs after concluding their international duties for their respective nations. For a few (namely the players of Norwich, Aston Villa and even a few at Spurs), they had headed off with the well-wishes of their managers ringing in their ears only to return to find a completely different individual sitting behind the desk in the gaffer's office.

The most notable of these 'adjustments' (especially for the media) is the arrival of former Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard to the helm at Villa Park.

Strangely, for a new managerial appointee, no sooner had his appointment at the midlands club been announced than speculation began on when his departure would occur.

Hours after leaving his last job in Glasgow as manager of Rangers, and just minutes after his announcement as the main-man at Aston Villa, both the media and football fans alike were speculating whether this was the first step in Gerrard returning to his spiritual home at Anfield.

Player/manager

It's been always like this for Gerrard. No sooner had he left Liverpool than the countdown to his return began. Maybe it's not surprising, such was his influence on the team as a player. Indeed, many felt there were periods during his playing days that the Scouse native was the de facto manager on the field anyway.

Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool kiss the trophy following victory in the Champions League final against AC Milan in 2005. Picture:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool kiss the trophy following victory in the Champions League final against AC Milan in 2005. Picture:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The idea that Gerrard is just using his time at Villa as a kind of work experience on his way back to Merseyside may appear like an insult on the hopes and aspirations of the midlands giant. Yet despite Villa's not insignificant ambitions, there is no getting around the fact that Gerrard has always expressed his desire to one day return and lead his boyhood club at the very highest level.

And to be fair, leaks after the announcement suggested that the Villa board had interviewed the recently fired Chelsea boss, Frank Lampard before they decided on Gerrard, which indicates that Villa themselves were far from unquestioning devotees of the prospect of having the former Liverpool captain in charge.

Lampard again

That Lampard should be his rival for a managerial position is quite apt when one considers the way their playing careers so often intersected. But besides that, there is a lesson for Gerrard from Lampard's rush to return to Chelsea, the club where he was the playing legend.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard supposedly was interviewed for the Aston Villa job ahead of Gerrard. 
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard supposedly was interviewed for the Aston Villa job ahead of Gerrard. 

Lampard, in my opinion, was rather unlucky and treated badly by his beloved Chelsea. The club legend took over a team in transition, full of inexperienced young players, under a transfer embargo, and in the middle of a global pandemic. Yet he still achieved some notable results. But a season or two without a trophy does not go down well at The Bridge and to be fair, the success of Lampard's replacement, Thomas Tuchel, would seem to validate the decision by Roman Abramovich and Co at Chelsea to dispose of their former star player as manager.

And that's the lesson for Gerrard. He should be careful about what he wishes. A premature return to the club he loves may turn sour as quick as it did for Lampard.

Fergie Time

Football managers' careers are somewhat the same as politicians' careers; ' they always end in failure'. This is true in so many cases with a few notable exceptions like Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who managed to depart his tenure at Old Trafford on his own terms.

But even here there is another lesson for Gerrard to take on. And that is the danger of taking over at a club in the shadow of a managerial legend.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson applauds home fans at Old Trafford in 2013. Finding a worthy successor has proved difficult since his departure. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson applauds home fans at Old Trafford in 2013. Finding a worthy successor has proved difficult since his departure. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Trying to fill the shoes of Fergie cost three managers their jobs at United and the vultures are circling the current pretender to Sir Alex's throne.

Now, Jurgen Klopp may not yet have the legendary status at Liverpool that Fergie had at United. But it is quickly heading that way. And a couple more cups at Anfield and there will be genuine tears shed and statues erected to the German when he leaves L4.

In that scenario, if Gerrard immediately stepped into the role left by Klopp, he would have to hope for a near-miracle run of success. Especially as great managers usually have exhausted the success and talents of the panel before they are retired/fired. It might be better for Gerrard to make his return to Anfield at the end of the term of the manager that replaces Klopp. But the temptation to move in immediately after Klopp may make any such willpower nigh on impossible.

For now, Gerrard will have his hands full at Villa and his best route to a return to Anfield is to be successful at Villa Park. That starts not about bagging European glory for the Clarets and Blue but rather edging them away from relegation trouble. Success in such grubby battles may enhance his managerial pedigree better than any rushed return to Anfield.

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