Managing Rangers was never enough to see Steven Gerrard return to Anfield

Graham Cummins on why Aston Villa fans will benefit if Stevie G can deliver for them, even if Liverpool do eventually come calling
Managing Rangers was never enough to see Steven Gerrard return to Anfield

A general view of a giant poster welcoming Steven Gerrard to Ibrox. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

WAS managing Rangers ever going to be enough for Steven Gerrard to be considered a worthy successor to Jurgen Klopp at Anfield?

Of course, what Gerrard achieved during his time as a player with Liverpool helps his credentials. But in terms of replacing the German, staying at Rangers, no matter how well he did with the club in the Scottish league and Europe, wasn’t going to leave him in a strong position. That’s why he took Aston Villa’s offer.

Yes, Xavi was appointed Barcelona manager recently after having only been at the helm of Al Sadd in the Saudi Arabia League. And Frank Lampard was handed the reins at Chelsea on the back of his tenure with Derby County before that.

With Barcelona and Chelsea, there were extenuating circumstances though, which is exactly why the club legends were promoted ahead of schedule.

Xavi is taking over a Barcelona outfit struggling on and off the pitch. They needed to appoint someone that would get their fans back on board. Chelsea were under a transfer embargo when Lampard came in and the key requirement was a willingness to develop their younger players.

When Klopp does walk away, are Liverpool ever going to find themselves in a similar situation to Barcelona now or Chelsea in 2019? Probably not.

In retrospect, had Lampard worked as a Premier League manager elsewhere before going to Chelsea he could have lasted longer than 18 months. He was clearly lacking the required experience of managing against the best players and managers in the world. It was a baptism of fire at Chelsea. One that proved too much in the end.

Gerrard had to leave the Scottish league and test himself against managers like Pep Guardiola, Klopp, Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel. Going to Aston Villa was the correct decision, even if it carries more of a risk.

I’ve played in the Scottish league and know what it’s like. There’s a big difference between being Rangers manager and setting your team up to play against players of my standard and stars like Phil Foden or Romelu Lukaku.

There is an argument to say that competing in European competitions with Rangers is just as important in terms of experience. That would only be fair if Rangers were in the Champions League. Can players and managers really be judged on the Europa League? Villarreal manager Unai Emery has won the competition four times but wasn’t a success in his Arsenal stint.

For players and managers with a lot of potential in order to reach the elite ranks, the Scottish league has to be seen as an apprenticeship. Gerrard has passed that test with Rangers and it is time for him to move on to better things.

Is Gerrard an elite manager? Absolutely not. Not yet anyway.

He was never going to be as long as he remained with Rangers, no matter how much success he achieved. Take Brendan Rodgers. The Leicester manager has gained more credibility as a manager for winning one FA Cup with the Foxes than he did winning a clean sweep of domestic trophies with Celtic.

Finishing in the top half of the table this season with Aston Villa will look better on Gerrard’s CV than had he stayed in Scotland and guided Rangers to back-to-back titles.

Steven Gerrard is ready for a new challenge with Aston Villa.
Steven Gerrard is ready for a new challenge with Aston Villa.

There is also the argument that Villa fans should be unhappy with Gerrard’s appointment if you believe he sees the Midlands club as a stepping-stone to becoming Liverpool manager. So what if he does though? It won’t hamper his appetite to succeed with Villa.

The only way Gerrard will be given the Liverpool job is if he delivers there. He won’t even be a candidate if they’re mired in mid-table side for the next few years.

It’s rare that managers spend over three seasons at the one club, so, if Gerrard is successful with Villa over the next and leaves the club for Liverpool then he should go with the fans’ blessings.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring the winning goal against Olympiakos.
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring the winning goal against Olympiakos.

On Saturday, Gerard’s Villa face a Brighton outfit whose manager Graham Potter deserved the Villa gig more than Gerrard did because of what Potter achieved at Swansea and his current employers. Keeping the Seagulls in the Premier League and changing their playing philosophy has been more commendable than Gerrard’s single league north of the border with the Gers.

The former Liverpool captain has gambled by departing Ibrox, but the potential rewards are worth it.

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